The Dash of Jamake

DOLLAR: A disk of metal which has eucharistic qualities; a sacred, miraculous object, contact with which is looked upon as curative and prophylactic

LET us leave the best sellers’ Hall of Fame and turn to one of the few masters of the language now writing—Elbert Hubbard.

He is an interpreter of genius, incidentally being one himself.

In him there is found the rarest of qualities in the critical mind—simultaneity of sight. He sees everything at once and sees it in all its relations.

He is an epitome of Culture. Nothing that is human, superhuman or subhuman is foreign to that exasperatingly alive Brain. Its mechanism of association, which at the same time is a mechanism of exclusion and dissociation, could have been elaborated only at the [76] end of a psychic cycle. It is climacteric.

Hubbard is an end that begins. He has fused life. He has married life—taken it for concubine, as it were.

In language he has ventured into the land of the ultra-violet—and then uttered what the passer-by may read on the tombstone of Montaigne, “What do I know?” Then he begins all over again. For Hubbard is the play-boy of the intellectual cosmos.

An impulse or thought traverses the simple, undeveloped brain like a through express. An impulse or thought in a highly organized brain is continually stopped by a perfect system of automatic block-signals.

Elbert Hubbard knows too much, has felt too much. Maybe his “great work” will never be written. His “great work” is his life. He will never be able to piece himself together; it would take an eternity to do it. He will remain a dome of many-colored glass that illuminates [77] with its own light the black night of our literary dulness.

The word superman is in everybody’s mouth, and of the stupidities uttered in its name there is no end. A superman in the Nietzschean sense is an inventor and appraiser of values; a man who perpetually climbs above himself; a man who walks ahead of himself; a man who dances with joy on the catafalque of yesterday. He is the supreme of virile culture. He is more Rabelais than Napoleon. He is Cellini, but never Roosevelt. He is freeborn of dogmas, gods and schools. He is himself an eternal apostate. In the firmament of the imagination, he flies for one purpose—to find new worlds. He loves Folly beyond all things. Seriousness is the only crime.

In this sense, in the truly Nietzschean sense, Elbert Hubbard is a superman.

With him the new is legitimate, merely because it is new. The new [78] always bears about it something of the Divine. A variation in the evolution of life, a shade never perceived before, a vibration hitherto unsensed—that is always a great event to the Live Mind.

The thing itself may be of little value, but that something is seen, felt or apprehended that was not seen, felt or apprehended before is of overwhelming interest to the ravenous intelligence.

Elbert Hubbard, in his passion for infinite variation and change, might paraphrase the famous saying of Tom Paine: “Where the commonplace is that is my country.” His brain is a great spectroscope which refracts the rays of a thousand suns and stars of the artistic, literary and advertising firmament. 

In the spectra his eye ferrets for the new. And when he finds it, there is a tremendous dilatation of images in his mind and a sudden reorchestration of the brain-cells. That is what the benighted call his inconsistency.

[79] He is cerebral, and the coming of a New Man produces a veritable emotional cataclysm over all the area of his magnetic sensibility—or used to.

The world was invented in order that we should puzzle over it. Then they say he is a Barnum. Well, Barnum was the supreme ironist of his age. Enthusiasm and irony—that’s the core of Elbert Hubbard.

His mental life describes a parabola between the medulla oblongata and the cranial summit. Between the under-world of sane materialism and the Horeb of satiric paradoxes there lie ambushed satyrs, pixies, and strange exotic gods—and a Yankee horse-trader. Momus follows Helena through all of her infinite transmutations. In the tempests of creation Mephistopheles rides the wind with Aphrodite.

As in Heine’s pages, at the end of everything which Elbert Hubbard has written there gleams a sinister light. His execution always seems [80] to be a satire on his intention. When he is most serious it is just then we might suspect him. There is a flaming corona of ice behind all of his occultations. It is in his abysmal reservations that he’s buried the secret of his personality. Does he wear a mask? Well, so does Jehovah. He is like a skyscraper with a symphony orchestra playing in the basement and a vaudeville performance on the roof.

His is the impersonal vision. Life is neither good nor bad. It is interesting. The more complex the better. The more terrible it is, the more beautiful it will be. Pain is the magical palette on which Life mixes her colors. The impersonal recorder of life peers over it, microscope in hand, like a Balzac, a Shakespeare, a Montaigne, a Rabelais. He is a contemplative Eye. He is a physician who takes the pulse of the age and makes note about it.

A constant dissociation of ideas and sentiments a long time associated is [81] the law of mental liberty. Elbert Hubbard is a dissociationist, a destroyer, a dissolver of shams and flimflams—in other words, a perfectly sane and healthy being.

Every freeborn child must do away with its parents at some stage in its career. it must surmount the stupidities that education has lodged in its brain. The free vision rests on ruins. From the cinders and ashes of a thousand ancestral habits of thought rises the eternal tower of the purged perception.


Source: The Feather Duster: or, Is He Sincere? 1912, pp. 75-81