This Book is written by Arthur Osborne
The next powerful influence on my life was the Yorkshire Moors. Perhaps it could be described as a vision of beauty — the long sweep of the hills, the heather glowing purple in the distance and springy underfoot, the profusion of wild flowers — marsh orchids, and many others — the wild strawberries growing by the roadside and, above all, the sombre pine-woods with the wind moaning through them. And yet I had known beautiful country before and have known it since, and never had it such power over me. I loved it in rain and mist as well as in sunshine. It became connected in my mind with the Norse legends and the vital power of the Northlands. It seemed something too sacred to speak about, and I never did speak about it.
The last time we spent our summer holidays there I must have been about fifteen. The spell was as strong as ever. It was then that I wrote my first sonnet. I was sitting alone on a hillside and took out a new notebook that I happened to have in my breast pocket and wrote a sonnet about the moors on the first page. I decided to write one on each page and give it to my mother for a birthday present when it was full. I don’t know whether I ever wrote another poem in it; I certainly never gave it to any one. In the same holiday I wrote a lyric on the moors and the pine trees that I long regarded as a great poem. Juvenile as it was, it was written with genuine inspiration. I have long since forgotten it.
The same holiday we made friends with a local farmer, whom I will call Bob Thorpe, an uncouth looking fellow, unshaven, with a broad North Riding accent, and yet a great lover of beauty and a reader of poetry. When he sat on a hillside beside me, reciting Tennyson and Milton, there was much less of an accent in his speech. He too loved the moorlands. Instead of a compact farm in the valley around his farmhouse he had his fields scattered on the various hills because he loved walking from hill to hill. There were those who said that it was also because it gave him an excuse for walking over the squire’s grounds and that he left a trail of rabbit snares as he went; in fact, poaching was as much a business with him as farming.
I never liked games, neither cricket and football nor the lighter games such as tennis and badminton. I played as much as was inescapable at school and no more. On the other hand I loved gardening. We had an orchard behind the house and a garden for growing flowers and vegetables, and my father and I did all the work of it. Whether it was the heavy work of digging and manuring or sowing seeds, pruning fruit trees, even weeding, I loved the very contact with the earth and the growing things. When, therefore, harvest started and Bob Thorpe let me work for him as an unpaid labourer it was he who was doing me a favour. We worked from first daylight to dusk, taking time off at midday to rest in the shade and eat the coldmeat that the womenfolk brought to the field for us. It was an old-fashioned, simple reaper and we bound the sheaves by hand and arranged them in stooks. I had never spent so enjoyable a holiday.
Farming appealed to me and might have fulfilled my nature but my father had other plans for me and would not consider such a possibility.When I say that this outcome, supposing it to have been possible, would have been the only fulfilment of my life, that does not mean that missing it was a cause for regret; indeed, it was a cause for rejoicing. The only real measure of success in life is the state of mind and character one has attained when the time comes to leave it. The only full success is spiritual enlightenment, realization of the Self. The life in a man is returning ineluctably to its Source, to Oneness with the Self, like a river to the ocean. This lifetime is an episode on the path, and all that matters is the distance from the goal when the episode ends. This depends on two things: first on the position from which this lifetime begins, that is to say the stage on the road already attained in past existences, whether human or not; secondly on the wisdom and determination with which one presses forward in this lifetime. There is no injustice in the different stages from which man begins life’s course or in the different degrees of understanding and determination with which they are endowed, for that concerns only speed, and impatience is a purely human disease. The difference does not affect the universal order or the final outcome. Indeed, from the viewpoint of the universal order, the courses man follows can be compared rather to rivers flowing into the ocean than to men trudging the road on a pilgrimage — a lifetime representing not the whole course of the river but only a certain stretch of it.
Even though some meander or stagnate or even turn backwards, while others flow swift and strong, all plunge finally into the same ocean. There is not even any question of earlier or later, since time does not come into it when the rivers’ courses are viewed as a whole from the air. But for the individual time does make a difference. So long as he feels himself to be an individual the striving is real and it is the symbol of the pilgrim that applies, not that of the river. And for the pilgrim, wasted time is wasted opportunity. A whole lifetime, a whole day’s journey on the pilgrimage, may be wasted, idling by the roadside, wandering a field, or even going back; and then the next day’s journey will be more arduous and its starting point less advantageous.
It is true that by no means all envisage life as a purposeful journey. Happy are those who do and who act on the knowledge; but even those who do not are advancing or regressing according to whether they weaken or strengthen the grip of the ego, cutting some of its tentacles or putting out new ones. Fundamentally, the weakening and final dissolution of the ego is the purpose of all religions; and it is religion which is the most efficacious for accomplishing this task, although selfless service of others, and even of animals and plants, can also be effective to some extent. Whatever weakens the ego is good, whatever strengthens it bad. Thus, it may be advantageous for a person to be uprooted rather than to strike root. Certainly it was for me. If destiny had closed the circle, leading me to contentment on a Yorkshire farm, the journey might have ended there and this lifetime been wasted. As it happened, this episode was like a station that the train stops at long enough to look out of the window and then travels on.