We are so bound together that no man can labour for himself alone

barn raising 1908

In working for themselves they are working for us all

On Getting On In the World


Man is not given that god-like unselfishness that thinks only of others’ good. But in working for themselves they are working for us all. We are so bound together that no man can labour for himself alone. Each blow he strikes in his own behalf helps to mould the Universe. The stream, in struggling onward, turns the mill-wheel; the coral insect, fashioning its tiny cell, joins continents to one another; and the ambitious man, building a pedestal for himself, leaves a monument to posterity. Alexander and Caesar fought for their own ends, but, in doing so, they put a belt of civilisation half round the earth. Stephenson, to win a fortune, invented the steam-engine; and Shakespeare wrote his plays in order to keep a comfortable home for Mrs. Shakespeare and the little Shakespeares.

Contented, unambitious people are all very well in their way. They form a neat, useful background for great portraits to be painted against; and they make a respectable, if not particularly intelligent, audience for the active spirits of the age to play before. I have not a word to say against contented people so long as they keep quiet. But do not, for goodness’ sake, let them go strutting about, as they are so fond of doing, crying out that they are the true models for the whole species. Why, they are the deadheads, the drones in the great hive, the street crowds that lounge about, gaping at those who are working.

by Jerome Klapka Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927)
from Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow
image – Library of Congress of Canada, Barn raising – Leckie’s barn completed in frame 1908

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