All the time, they tell you that life is fair; that insofar as you are not debilitated by some mischief of fate; that your mind has all the capacities for learning and your body all the functions for living, there shall be no obstacle unconquerable by diligence. They list you examples of people who have climbed from the ghettos to the penthouses, and explain to you that however unfavorable the circumstances may be, so as long as you are willing to work hard, success will come eventually. Even indolence, that seemingly incurable illness, can be expunged by the salve of diligence.
But do they not speak as if that coveted quality were something that could be acquired simply at our command? “Let me be hardworking!” And the inward proclamation at once awakens the slumbering soul, setting it immediately to duties and fruitful enterprises.
I imagine the response to this suspicion will come eagerly, and will be approximately this: if diligence were not a quality attainable through worldly means, but only by the bestowment of nature – then how might we account for the numerous instances of a lazy person growing up to become a diligent one?
Here, the error is furtive. One needs only reflect a little further to see it. If diligence is to supplant indolence, then our nature must have every part to do with it. The inspiration, the first whip of flame, needs more than itself to set off a change; it needs a rope on which to burn, and whether or not this rope will burn depends entirely on one’s nature. The same inspiration can be fed to two different persons, and both will react differently: one might turn industrious and other remain a slovenly bum. So it is, that the qualities possessed, or that shall come to be possessed, have already been determined by nature, by the configurations of our character at birth.
Thus, if they were to tell you once more that with diligence you could flatten out the unfairness in circumstance, tell them this; that we are not masters of ourselves, and life is still unfair.