We have heard so much discussion in regard to our national flower, whether it should be the rose, the clover, or the goldenrod, that we have not given any attention to the flower of our own particular commonwealth, the symbol of the State of Kansas.
Although so well known, it seems to us that the sunflower is not properly appreciated. To the botanist it is only one of the large order compositae, difficult to analyze and impossible to press. To the farmer, it appears as an annoying weed which disfigures the borders of his field. Some people have been heard to remark "this will be a sickly season; there are so many sunflowers, and that is a sure sign of ague." Others regard it as a great, coarse plant, useless, because devoid of grace and fragrance.
Did you ever wonder why the sunflower was chosen our State flower, or note some of the useful lessons to be learned from this common, homely plant? The sunflower seems to me a fit emblem of so great a State because of its "staying" qualities. It possesses the first secret of success, for no matter if it is cut down or choked back, no matter how wet or how dry the season may be, it overcomes all obstacles, and like the true Kansan that it is, puts on a brave front and keeps on doing business at the old stand.
It possesses the hardy nature of the pioneer, and the honesty of one too, for it lifts up its great, bright face and looks you squarely in the eyes. Like the characters of our countrymen, it is more durable and useful than showy or elegant, and the beauty which it possesses is not of the frail and fleeting sort, but the beauty whose merit lies in the comforting influence and cheering association with which it impresses us.
What if it is a common roadside flower? It blooms all over our broad State. Where is the person that is not glad to see its familiar face where all else is strange to her? We are glad to know that the sunflower thrives in the vacant lots and country lanes about Manhattan. Let them grow and nod in the autumn sun. Their bright, homely faces seem like faces of old friends, and we feel less homesick when we see them smiling upon us from the highways and byways. Emulate this sunflower, my dears, and like it always keep your face towards the sun, and our State will be, in more senses than one, the "Sunflower State,"
For two hours I have been in England with the beautiful heroines of an English novel. As I finish, and am called back to prosy old Manhattan by the "finale" on the last page, I throw down the book with a yawn and exclaim, "What a silly girl," and then I fall to thinking about those foolish beings, and about other girls in books I have read. How few of them are like girls that I know! pretty little creatures, cute, picturesque, useless except to break men's hearts - girls with slender forms, golden curls, deep violet eyes, dainty feet, clinging draperies, etc.
Another class, equally rare among girls I know, but more to be loved, are the beautiful young women having all the queenly graces that we most admire, always knowing and saying and doing the right things at the right time.
Not all heroines are like either of these, however, and it is indeed refreshing to find a story of a more common sort of girl. When we read of girls that have our trials and pleasures, temptation and perplexities, the story becomes more than a story to us. No need to ask why girls, young and old, love Mrs. Whitney's and Miss Alcott's stories. Their girls are girls that we know.
I wonder how some of the Kansas girls that I know would appear in a novel; imagine a minute: what if some girl, not an Ionian, should some day find herself a woman with the power to use her pen well, as so many others have? Had she the power to see the characters, feelings, and the hearts of these girls we know, and the genius to show them to others as they are, would they not be more interesting to us than any story of beautiful belles of New York, or London, or Paris? I hope some one will write a novel some day about some of our Kansas sisters, and let us see how they will look in a story. The romance would not be lacking, and we would find much to admire and love, although the girl be neither a beauty nor perfectly adorable.
Parasites are the most degraded and despicable forms of nature. If you ask the biologist why, he will tell you that they have committed one of the greatest crimes of nature. They have evaded the law of the struggle for life, and are almost a breach of that greatest of laws - evolution. This law demands the highest development of all the faculties in order to attain the nearest possible perfection of the individual class. Let us see how nature avenges herself on parasitism. Go to any extensive work on zoölogy and you will find numerous instances of animals which have once led a free and independent existence becoming parasites, or if not true parasites, seeking home and safety at the expense of some other animal, perhaps inhabiting his cast off shell.
In all the cases you will also find that there has been a gradual degeneration of the animal, either manifesting itself in the individual or in future generations. But the more particular study for us at present is that parasitism which is exhibited in the highest animal form, namely, man. Here, as before, parasitism implies a lack of exercise of those faculties which are given us to procure our safety and food, be that food physical, mental or spiritual. Here also, in accordance with a law of nature that nothing shall exist in vain, a lack of use means inevitably deterioration and final atrophy of those neglected faculties. It is true that the exertion of getting food is but a means to an end, yet in the economy of nature the means are quite as essential as the end to be attained.
Of our physical, political, or social parasites we have no need to speak; they are all too readily recognized. Our mental parasites, though not so easily known are quite as numerous. They never study alone if they can avoid it, preferring to get some one to help them. They never have any opinions of their own. Oh, no! theirs might be too crude. They simply adopt those that they have beard expressed by the majority. They even come to our societies, where they try to escape every duty laid upon them and rest content to reap the benefit of others' resources. Our moral parasites are even harder to distinguish. Their opinions of right or wrong are derived from the society in which they move, and if they have any qualms of conscience they are easily quieted by reflecting on the seemingly greater sins of others. But we have reached the highest faculty of natural man, and as we enter the spiritual world can we expect to find parasitism still in existence? Sadly we will have to confess that here it is abundant. For example, our church goer who goes because other people go; also, our dead church members who allow their preachers to do all their praying and Bible reading for them, and yet vainly imagine that because they have once joined the church they are on the straight road to Heaven.
But after all these people need not worry, as it is themselves that they injure. Still, we may profit by their example, and when we are tempted to take the easy way out, remember the punishment that inevitably follows nature's laws. "Better far," says Drummond, "to be burned at the stake of public opinion than to die the living death of parasitism."
A drop of ink is a very minute portion of the fluid by which thought is transported to the reading world. And yet what vast possibilities are encompassed in one little drop of ink! It may inscribe the words which shall decide the destiny of a life, making it blissful or wretched. It may send the sweet message of friendship or love which shall cheer the lone toiler in life's uneven journey. It may, paint in such glowing and fascinating colors, the way of truth and righteousness, that the skeptical may be led to walk therein. It may send an order to advance an army and save a nation. It may sign the death warrant of the innocent, or send pardon to the condemned. It may pass an unjust criticism upon a young genius aspiring to literary or musical distinction and blast his hopes forever, or it may convey to him the word of praise that will stimulate his heart and brain until success is attained. All the powers of thought cannot enumerate the possibilities of one drop of ink; they are far too numerous. Let us not despair if, in our hearts, we desire to do good and speak for the right, but use the drop of ink and wield our pens for truth and justice.
Tom & Carolyn Ward