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The Power of Habit  

2010-08-02 14:49:19|  分类: English |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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                           The Power of Habit
                                     By William James

    “Habit a second nature! Habit is ten times nature,” the Duke of Wellington is said to have exclaimed; and the degree to which this is true no one probably can appreciate as well as one who is a veteran soldier himself. The daily drill and the years of discipline end by fashioning a man completely over again, as to most of the possibilities of his conduct.
    “There is a story,” says Prof. Huxley, “which is credible enough, though it may not be true, of a practical joker who seeing a discharged veteran carrying home his dinner, suddenly called out, ‘Attention!’ whereupon the man instantly brought his hands down, and lost his mutton and potatoes in the gutter. The drill and been thorough, and its effects had become embodied in the man’s nervous structure.”
   Riderless cavalry-houses, at many a battle have been seen to come together and go through their customary evolutions at the sound of the bugle-call. Most domestic beasts seem machines almost pure and simple, undoubtingly, unhesitatingly doing from minute to minute the duties they have been taught, and giving no sign that the possibility of an alternative ever suggests itself to their mind. Men grown old in prison have asked to be readmitted after being once set free. In a railroad accident a menagerie-tiger, whose cage had broken open, is said to have emerged, but presently crept back again, as if too much bewildered by his new responsibilities, so that he was without difficulty secured.
   Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance. It alone prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman and the deckhand at sea through the winter; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the countryman to his log-cabin and his lonely farm through all the months of snow; it protects us from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone. It dooms us all to fight out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture or our early choice, and to make the best of a pursuit that disagrees, because there is no other for which we are fitted, and it is too late to begin again. It keeps different social strata from mixing. Already at the age of twenty-five you see the professional mannerism settling down on the young commercial traveller, on the young doctor, on the young minister, on the young counselor-at-law. You see the little lines of cleavage running through the character the tricks of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the “shop,” in a word, from which the man can by-and-by no more escape than his coatsleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of folds. On the whole, it is best he should not escape. It is well for the world that in most of us by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.
    If the period between twenty and thirty is the critical one in the formation of intellectual and professional habits, the period below twenty is more important still for the fixing of personal habits, properly so called, such as vocalization and pronunciation, gesture, motion, and address. Hardly ever is a language learned after twenty spoken without a foreign accent; hardly ever can a youth transferred to the society of his betters unlearn the nasality and other vices of speech bred in him by the associations of his growing years. Hardly ever, indeed, no matter how much money there be in his pocket, can he even learn to dress like a gentleman-born. The merchants offer their wares as eagerly to him as to the veriest “swell, but he simply cannot buy the right things. An invisible law, as strong as gravitation, keeps him within his orbit, arrayed this year as he was the last; and how his better-clad acquaintances contrive to get the things they wear will be  for him a mystery till his dying day.
    The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. It is to fund and capitalize our acquisitions, and live at ease upon the interest of the fund. For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half time of such a man goes to the deciding, or regretting, of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all. If there be such daily duties not yet ingrained in any one of my readers, let him begin this very hour to see the matter right.

                                         习惯的力量
                                              威廉·詹姆斯著
  “习惯是第二本性!习惯是十倍的本性,”人们说威灵顿公爵曾这样大喊过;而对这句话的真实程度可能没有人会像一个退伍军人自己那样理解得那么好。每日的训练和成年累月的纪律,将一个人的大部分行为可能性都完全重新塑造了。
  “一个有实际经验的爱说笑话的人讲过一个故事,尽管这个故事可能不真实,却十分可信。看见一个被遣散的老兵端着饭回家,他突然喊了一声‘注意!’于是那个老兵立刻放下双手,他的羊肉和马铃薯都掉在了水沟里。训练是彻底的,其效果已具体化在了那个老兵的神经结构之中。”赫胥黎教授说。
  人们在许多战役中都曾经看到过,没有人骑的骑兵马在听到军号声时会走到一起做出它们习惯的一系列规定动作。大部分训练过的驯服动物,似乎都是几近纯粹和简单的机器,每时每刻都毫不怀疑和毫不犹豫地履行着教给它们的责任,看不出它们的心中曾经出现过做任何其他事情的可能性。一些在监狱中变老的人,曾经在被释放以后要求再次入狱。有人说,在1884年发生于美国的一场旅行动物园的铁路事故中,一个老虎笼子被撞开,老虎出来了,但很快又爬了回去,好像是对它的新责任感到太不知所措了,于是人们没费力气就把它保护了起来。
  因此,习惯是社会的巨大的飞轮,是它的最为宝贵的保守性的作用力。它独自将我们所有人都保持在传统风俗习惯的限度之内。它独自使得最艰苦和最受人排斥的行业不至于为那些在那里成长起来的人所遗弃。它使渔夫和甲板水手一冬天都呆在海上;它让矿工呆在黑暗中,它让农村人在漫长的雪天固守自己的小木屋和他那寂寞的农场;它保护我们不受沙漠和严寒地带的土著人的侵袭。它让我们所有人都注定要根据我们的教养或者早期选择来大打那场生活之战,并善于处理与那些教养或者选择不一致的追求,因为没有其他的东西适合于我们,而重新开始又太晚了。它使不同的社会阶层不会混合起来。你看到,在25岁时,年轻的旅行推销员、年轻的医生、年轻的牧师、年轻的法律顾问已经染上了职业怪癖。你在性格、思想的技巧、成见、“买东西”的方式中看到小小的裂痕,简单地说,人们对此无法马上避开,就像他的外衣袖子不能突然适应新的折痕一样。总之,最好是他不应该避开。在我们大多数人中,到了30岁的年龄,性格已经固定得像一块石膏,永远也不会再变软了,这无论如何是件好事。
  如果20岁到30岁这段时间在形成智力和职业习惯方面是关键时期的话,20岁之前的时期对于形成个性习惯(在严格的意义上这么说)来说就更为重要,这些个性习惯包括发声法、发音、姿势、动作、言谈举止等等。20岁以后学习的语言说起来很少不带外国口音;一个进入其上司社会圈子的年轻人,很难忘记在他成长的年代中所形成的说话的鼻音和其他缺陷。确实,无论他口袋里有多少钱,他也很难学会穿戴得像个绅士出身的人。商人们向他和向真正的“头面人物”一样热心地推销商品,但他就是不能买对东西。一条看不见的法则(像引力作用一样强)将他留在他的轨道上,在这一年里把他装扮得好像他是最差的;他那些受过更好教养的熟人们是如何设法弄到他们穿戴的东西的,对于他来说直到死的那一天都将是一个谜。
  因此,在所有的教育中,了不起的事情是使我们的系统成为我们的盟友,而不是我们的敌人。它向我们的所得投资并将它变成资本,然后轻松地以这项投资的利息为生。为此,我们必须在尽可能早的时候,将尽可能多的有用动作变成自动的和习惯性的,并且提防形成的有可能对我们不利的习惯,就像我们应当提防瘟疫一样。我们日常生活的细节能够交给不费力气的自动作用照管的越多,我们心灵的高级能力就越是能够被解放出来做它们自己的专有工作。那种没有习惯而只有优柔寡断,那种对于他来说点燃每一支香烟、喝每一杯水、每天睡觉和起床的时间、开始每一项工作都要经过明确的有意熟思的人,是最悲惨的。这种人的大部分时间都用来对在他那里本来应该是如此地根深蒂固、以至于对于他的意识来说实际上完全不存在的问题做决定,或者是感到后悔。如果这类日常事务还没有在我的任何一个读者那里根深蒂固,那让他现在就开始把这件事情解决了吧。(田平译本)

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