It is always hard really to see a familiar thing, and it is quite possible to go through life actually blind to our immediate surroundings because we have always seen them. A scientist would say that the objects of attention grow so familiar in consciousness that no reaction is produced. We constantly resent this dead level of familiarity, although we are unable to break through it, and we half suspect that we are missing the essence of life. As a result, we are always grateful to the artist when he shows us the beauty we cannot find for ourselves, to the dramatist who isolates everyday episodes, and makes them new and interesting, to the novelist who shows us our dull companions in an interesting light.
Because we are familiar with the exterior of huge factories we are content to walk by them every day without the remotest notion of the life that goes on within them, of the complicated automatic machines, which are the crown of a century of invention. We see streams of laborers filling the streets night and morning, and scarcely observe that in this stream the number of young women steadily increases and that the number of children fluctuates. Our lack of perception blurs it all. We buy the products as we may desire them, totally unconscious of the struggles of the inventor, of the dreams of the artist which the products may embody, and only a few purchasers inquire whether cheapness has been secured through an increase of speed which has put an unwarranted strain upon the nervous system of the young girls, or whether the worker has contracted disease which might have been avoided.
It is remarkable that this apathy should exist in America where industrial development has been so large a share of our industrial life, and where industry has called to its aid not only science and invention, but the service of original and vigorous minds. To remain ignorant of American industrial development, and the human interests involved, is to miss much of the significance and value of contemporary life. -- Selected.