Healing Heart (Truly Yours Digital Editions Book 551)
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Such was his faith in these books, or also so great his fear, that these glorious dreams might be dissipated, that he did not even ascertain or confirm their truth by the personal experience of those who had been there, and we are informed naively enough in the preface, that previous to his departure he had but once had an opportunity of conversing with an educated German, who had resided for a long time in America. Such weak heedlessness as this does not, to our ears at least, savor of the characteristic prudence and deliberation of [Pg ] the German, and strongly confirms us in the belief, that the doctor wandered forth well knowing what he was about—in other words, that he went his way with his opinions already cut and dried.
It was at the end of August. Even in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream a terrible heat oppressed us, which increased as we approached land; but it was in that city that I became aware of what the heat in America really was. Many visits which I was obliged to make, caused during the day a cruel exhaustion, while at night I found no refreshment in slumber, partly because the heat was hardly diminished, and partly from the musquitoes, and to me unaccustomed alarms of fire, which were nightly repeated, from which I found that life in America was by no means so agreeable as I had been led to infer from books and popular report.
From the single, mysterious, educated German with whom the doctor had conferred previous to his departure, he had learned that, in the United States, any thing like marked distinction of class, rank, or caste, did not exist; and that this was particularly the case among Germans living there. People actually destitute of knowledge and manners, in fact could not be found. Moreover, I there anticipated a southern climate, for which I had some years longed.
How miserably the poor doctor was disappointed in these moderate and reasonable anticipations, appears from the following lamentable account:. But this was not the case with the Americans, as I had been led to anticipate, nor indeed with the Germans, generally. Among these I found neither connection nor unity, and they mostly led a life such as I had in Germany never met with, while nothing like social cultivation, in a higher sense, was to be found. Led into the society of those who by day were devoted to business, but in the evening scattered themselves, here and there, without a point of union, I found myself in the noisy, but pleasure-wanting city, forlorn and unwell.
Many, to whom I complained of what I missed in New-York, thought that it might be found in Philadelphia.
But even in Philadelphia our pilgrim found not the promised Paradise, where there was no distinction of rank or family, and where the more educated and refined would eagerly adopt him, the lowly brother, into their Icarian circle. Neither did he discover the golden tropical region—the southern heaven—for which his soul had longed for years. Others were of the opinion, that I would first be pleased with the country when I had found a profitable employment.
And some others, that I would never be satisfied. And so the doctor, ever dependent on others for happiness, looked here and there, like the pilgrim after Aden, or the hero of the Morning Watch, for the ideal of his dreams. The so-called entirely German towns in Pennsylvania were German only in name.
The heat disgusted him with the south—the cold with the north.
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After residing nine months in Poughkeepsie, he returned to New-York, and there remained for some time, occupied, as it would appear, solely with acquiring information. This residence at an end, he returned to Germany. We pass over the first chapters of his work, devoted to an ordinary account of the climate, animals, and plants of the country, to a more interesting picture, namely—its inhabitants. From this we learn that the American is cold, dry, and monosyllabic, in his demeanor and conversation.
During his return to Germany he was delayed for a period of something less than nine days at Falmouth, England, where, during his daily walks, he experienced that in comparison with us the English are amiable, communicative, and agreeable. Indeed, he found that when, during a promenade in America, strangers returned his greetings, these polite individuals were invariably Britons, "which proves that while in more recent times, the English have assumed or approached the customs of other nations, the Americans have remained true to the character and being of the earlier emigrants, and are at present totally distinct from the English of to-day.
Regard them where we will, they are ever the same. In the larger or the smaller towns, in the streets or in the country, every one goes his own way without troubling himself about others, and without saluting those with whom he is unacquainted. Never do we see neighbors associating with each other; and neighborly friendship is here unknown. If acquaintances meet, they nod to each other, or the one murmurs, [Pg ] ' How do you do?
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This concluded, they depart without a word, unless, indeed, as an exception, they wish each other good morning, or evening. Nor are they less distant in hotels, or during journeys in railroad cars and steamboats. Any one speaking frequently to a stranger, at table or during a journey, runs the risk not merely of being regarded as impertinent, but as entertaining dishonest views; and, indeed, one should invariably be on his guard against Americans who manifest much friendliness, since, in this manner, pickpockets are accustomed to make their advances.
Never do we observe among friends a deep and heart-inspired, or even a confiding relationship. Nay, this is not even to be found among members of the same family. The son or the daughter, who has not for several days seen his or her parents, returns and enters the room without a greeting, or without any signs of joy being manifested by either. Or else the salutation is given and returned in such a manner that scarcely a glance passes between the parties.
The direst calamities are imparted and listened to with an apathy evincing no signs of emotion, and a great disaster, occurring on a railroad or steamboat, in the United States, excites in Germany more attention and sympathy than in the former country, even when friends and perhaps relatives have thereby suffered. Even the loss of a member of the family is hardly manifested by the survivors.
In a recent English work we were indeed complimented for our patience , but it was reserved for Doctor Kirsten to discover in us, this degree of iron-hearted, immovable, nil admirarism. But when he goes on to assert that "in the most deadly peril—in such moments as those which precede the anticipated explosion of a steamboat boiler, even their ladies preserve the same repose and equanimity," so that any expression from a stranger is coldly listened to, without producing evident impression, our surprise is changed to wonder, and we are tempted to inquire, Can it be possible, that we are such Spartans—endowed with such superior human stoicism?
In both sexes we frequently meet with pretty, and occasionally beautiful, faces; but seldom, however, do we perceive in either, aught cheerful or attractive.
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In place thereof we observe, even in the fairest, a certain earnestness, verging towards coldness. From the great majority of faces we should judge that no emotion could be made to express itself upon them, and such is truly the case. But this must have a deeper ground than that merely caused by the use of distant forms of salutation.
Those who are capable of work—no matter what the cause of their sufferings may be, seldom receive alms, for the Americans go upon the principle that work is not disgraceful, and without reflecting that the applicant may not have been accustomed to work, refuse in any manner to aid him. If any man want work, he can apply to the overseers of the poor, who are obliged to receive him in a poor-house, and maintain him until he find such. Much is done at the state's expense for the aged, sick, and insane. After this our doctor lets fall a few flattering drops of commendation by way of admitting that this iron immobility of the American is not without its good points, but fearing that he has spoken too favorably, he brings up the chapter by remarking that—.
From our appearance and deportment he proceeds to a bold, hasty, and remarkably superficial criticism of education in America. The father of a family in America, we are informed, is occupied with business from morning to night, and leaves all care for the education and training of his children to the mother, who is, however, generally quite incapable to fulfil such duty.
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No teacher dare correct a child, for fear of incurring legal punishment, in consequence of which they grow up destitute of decency, order, or obedience. As for the children of the lower and middle classes, they pass their boyhood in idleness, and grow up in ignorance, until at a later period they enter into business, when they are compelled to perfect themselves in the arts of reading and writing, yet they quickly acquire the business spirit of their fathers.
On them the mothers expend much care and trouble, which is, however, of the most perverted kind, since it is in its nature entirely external. Before all, do they seek to give them an air of decency and culture, which is, nevertheless, more apparent than real. In accordance with the republican spirit of striving after equality, every mother—no matter how poor, or how low her rank may be—desires to bring her daughter up in such a manner that she may be inferior in respectability and external culture to no one.
In their mien we see a pride flashing forth, which can hardly be surpassed by that of the haughtiest daughters of the highest German nobility.
And that their daughters may in every respect equal those of others, we see poor men lavishing upon them their last penny; and while the boys run in the streets, covered with ragged and dirty fragments of clothing, the sisters wear bonnets with veils, bearing parasols, and while at school, short dresses and drawers. After this fearful announcement, we are informed, that the poor girls profit as little in school as their unhappy brothers, and that no regard is paid to their future destiny.
While the former lives, and the daughter remains unmarried, she the mother, attends to housekeeping, as far as the word can be taken in the German sense, while her daughter passes the time in reading, more frequently with bedecking herself, but generally in idleness. When the daughter, however, marries, we may well imagine how a house is managed in such hands. The principal business henceforth is self-adornment and housekeeping. All imaginable care is bestowed upon these branches, but none whatever on any other.
Cookery is of the lowest grade; nearly every day sees the same dishes, and those, also, which are prepared with the least trouble. Very frequently, indeed, the husbands are obliged to prepare their meals before and after their business hours. Knitting and spinning, either in town or country, is unknown; only manufactured or woven stockings are worn, and shirts are generally purchased ready-made in the shops.
This takes place every Monday, for there are very few families who own linen sufficient for more than a single week's wear. It is his business to see where the money comes from wherewith to nourish and decently clothe them: on this account the servant girls in America generally consist of Irish, Germans, and blacks. Even these, taking pattern from their mistresses, refuse to perform duties which are expected from every housemaid in Germany—for examples, boot-brushing, clothes-cleaning, and the bringing of water across the way, as well as street and step-cleaning; for which reason we often see respectable men performing these duties.
From this terrible plague of daughters, and daughterly extravagance, the doctor finds that poorer men in America are by no means as well off as would be imagined from their high wages. Fearing the cost of a family, many men remain unmarried, and in no country in the world are there so many old maids as in the United States.
Filial duty, he asserts, is unknown. When the son proposes emigration to another place, or the undertaking of a new business, he announces it to his father "perhaps the evening before; while the daughters act in like manner as regards marriage, or, it may be, mention it to him for the first time after it has really taken place—from which the custom results that parents give their children no part of their property before death.
Nothing is known of a true family life, in which parents are intimately allied to children, or brothers and sisters to each other. In science and art, we are sunk, it seems, almost beneath contempt; the former being cultivated only so far as it is conducive to money-making. The professions of Divinity, Law, and Medicine, are badly and superficially taught and acquired. As regards general education, he asserts that, though a few professors in our colleges are highly educated men, this cannot be said of their pupils, since the latter set no value on knowledge not directly profitable, "and the backward condition of ancient languages, natural science, even geography, history and statistics, save as applicable to their own country, is really a matter of wonder.
But in the fine arts, it appears, we are sunk so far beneath contempt that we really wonder that the doctor should have found it, in this particular, worth while to abuse us. Philadelphia and New-York have [Pg ] nothing of the kind to show, though each city possesses two public squares or parks planted with trees, which are well adapted to receive such works of art, and where the eye sadly misses them.
What they have generally consists of family portraits, or those of Washington and other presidents.