The Charlotte News



Work Pains Payne


The title of the latest opus by Mr. Roger Payne, A.B., L.L.B., intrigues me no end. It is, briefly and modestly, "Why Work?"

Well, why? I quite agree with Mr. Payne's plain implication. For myself, I have never liked the thing. Like Ferdinand, I had much rather pass my days smelling the flowers. So long ago as my primary school days I used to play sick in the mornings so that I might devote myself to the pleasant business of building Indian tents out of cotton seed hull sacks or rather directing the building by others, and swaying in the top of a tall maple tree which grew in the meadow below the house. Even in that time my mother used to shake her head sadly and fear that I would come to no good end. And if you doubt that she was right, ask Dave Clark.

In high school I could never reconcile myself to the task at hand. I had other books to read, and it was nice to sit in the sun and dream, and there were the girls to think about. And at college, I much preferred a seat under the magnolias either to attending class or pouring over textbooks. The unkindest thing ever said about me, it seems to me, was said by a professor of English in the course of some cautious praise of the more sardonic writings of my callow youth--that at college I had been "not a brilliant student but a good one." A plugger, eh? And after all those years of industrious loafing. It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, a gross lack of appreciation of my qualities.


It is a pleasant world--or would be, if it were not cluttered up with the everlasting nuisance of work. I have never understood why the author of things as they are could never arrange it to have food and clothing grow on trees, and furnish free passage on boats for every young man with an itching heel.

And so my heart goes out to Mr. Payne's title. Mr. Payne, I learn from the publisher's blurb, is eminent as the "Hobo Philosopher." His views, it appears, are based upon the teachings of the classic Greek philosophers, and particularly upon those of Diogenes the Cynic--the same who went hunting an honest man by daylight with a lantern, and who, being asked by Alexander what he might do for him, responded politely: "Please to stand from between me and the sun." So like Diogenes is Mr. Payne, according to his publisher, that, oddly enough, he is sometimes called the Modern Diogenes.

Mr. Payne goes about in khaki clothes, eats simple food, carries a little bag filled with necessities, and sleeps under the shelter of trees or upon the porticoes of churches or schools. I suspected that there was a catch in it. I have never slept under the shelter of the trees, but once I slept on the open balcony of an auberge in a French village somewhere south of Chartres, because, when I arrived late at night, that inn, like another more celebrated one, was already filled. I found that, while it was pleasant to observe the dawn, it got you up too early and that dew disposes to rheumatism. I am afraid, sadly, that work is incorrigibly inherent in the scheme of things for all of us save such resolute souls as Mr. Payne obviously is.


And indeed, Mr. Payne himself ultimately breaks down and confesses that even for himself the thing is not altogether inescapable. The title of his work, it turns out, is more than a trifle phoney, a thing that I properly resent. Instead of asking "Why Work?" what he really asks, and at length develops, is "Why work six days a week when you can make your living by working one?"

Half a loaf, I suppose, is better than none. But he had no business raising false hopes.

As to how Mr. Payne proposes to bring about an order in which all men will work one day instead of six, I am not aware. His title so interested me that I have not been able to get past it. Moreover, his treatise is somewhat formidably thick and, I fear, a trifle windy. But if your curiosity is so burning that it must be satisfied, why, then, the publisher is Meador at Boston, and the price is one smacker, plus seventy-five cents.

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