When we remember the sincere reformers of the world, do we not always recall most gladly the simple men amongst them, Savonarola rather than Tolstoi, Gorky rather than Goethe, and would it not be difficult to associate this memory of individual effort for public good with consciously elegant surroundings. Could we, for instance, picture Savonarola with a life handicapped, perhaps, by eager pursuit of sartorial eccentricities, with a bias for elaborate cuisine and insistence upon unearned opulence, or the earning of luxury at the sacrifice of other's lives or happiness? It does not somehow fit into the frame. In remembering those who have dedicated their lives to the benefit of their own lands, we inevitably picture them as men of simple ways, who have asked little and given much, who have freed their shoulders from the burdens of luxury, who have stripped off from their lives the tight inflexible bandages of unnecessary formalities, and who have thus been left free for those great essentials of honest existence, for courage, for unselfishness, for heroic purpose and, above all, for the clear vision which means the acceptance of that final good, honesty of purpose, without which there can be no real meaning in life.
Such right living and clear thinking cannot find abiding place except among those whose lives bring them back close to Nature's ways, those who are content to be clad simply and comfortably, to accept from life only just compensation for useful toil, who prefer to live much in the open, finding in the opportunity for labor the right to live; those who desire to rest from toil in homes built to meet their individual need of rest and peace and joy, homes which realize a personal standard of comfort and beauty; those who demand honesty in all expression from all friends, and who give in return sincerity and unselfishness, those who are fearless of sorrow, yet demand joy; those who rank work and rest as equal means of progress - in such lives only may we find the true regeneration for any nation, for only in such simplicity and sincerity can a nation develop a condition of permanent and properly equalized welfare.
By simplicity here is not meant any foolish whimsical eccentricity of dress or manner or architecture, colonized and made conspicuous by useless wealth, for eccentricity is but an expression of individual egotism and as such must inevitably be short-lived. And what our formal, artificial world of today needs is not more of this sort of eccentricity and egotism, but less; not more conscious posing for picturesque reform, but greater and quieter achievement along lines of fearless honesty; not less beauty, but infinitely more of a beauty that is real and lasting because it is born out of use and taste.
From generation to generation every nation has the privilege of nourishing men and women (but a few) who think and live thus sincerely and beautifully, and who so far as possible strive to impress upon their own generation the need of such sincerity and beauty in daily life.