The Lesser Harmonies

IN TUNE WITH THE FINITE. By Thomas L. Masson. (Century).

AS will be noted at once by many, the title alone of this book is worth contemplating.

Thousands upon thousands must all remember Ralph Waldo Trine’s enormously successful dissertation on being “In Tune With the Infinite.” It was translated into a score of languages and was read by millions throughout the Western world. Certainly that little book must have been of great value to many sick minds; but it is hardly reasonable to assume that its great sales were due primarily to intense spirituality in its readers. Rather, we may be sure, its wide appeal was largely sentimental and due to a very common human desire to escape the irksome factual “reference scheme” in which we are all forced to live, and to flee into some fantastic dream world where everything comes out just right. It is easier to shirk what is actual and immediate than to make a livable adjustment there-to; and there must be a great many people right now who are flirting with the “cosmic harmony” (whatever that may be) and overlooking the pressing need for a trifle more harmony within the relatively small reference scheme of common life. Almost anyone should be able to preach a very good sermon to himself, taking Mr. Masson’s title for a text, preaching being notoriously much easier than practice.

Perhaps many will judge by Mr. Masson’s title that he is only another of our obstreperous “realists” who have grown so wise as to be certain that anything outside the so-called “practical” world of sense is necessarily the bunk. But Mr. Masson is perhaps too wise to feel so wise as that; and the cynical reader who picks up this book will be disappointed.

Mr. Masson is a realist indeed, but he rather more than suspects that the scale of human reality is quite extensive, including a great deal more than is reported by the senses. The significance of his title lies in his belief that one can scarcely hope to erect a spire successfully before the foundation and main structure have been attended to, and that in the matter of attaining to the larger spiritual harmony, the immediate world is as good a place to begin as it is a poor place to stop.

Nevertheless, “In Tune With the Finite” is not at all “preachy.” It is a series of off-hand chats on many matters concerned with everyday living by a man who has lived a good deal and learned some things by making many mistakes and studying them with a keen sense of humor. There are no excathedra utterances in the volume; there is only a friendly sharing of experience for what it may be worth.

The little essay on Love might well be printed in a pamphlet and distributed by millions throughout the country among flappers and cake-eaters and in homes that are overshadowed with impending divorce. Strange as it may seem, there is nothing “sexy” or sentimental in the essay. Those who may be more or less persuaded to accept Mark Twain’s famous saying to the effect that life after 40 is a tragedy, should read the luminous chapter on middle age. People who are somewhat troubled with the religious question, should find some help in constructive feeling and thinking along that line by reading Masson’s chapter entitled “Is There a Practical Religion?” Other chapters deal in the same simple and suggestive way with such themes as courage, having a good time, friendship, morale, practical mysticism, how to read, the invalid mind, the psychology of accidents.