The Material Question

‘In order that you may understand, if only approximately, why and how I was able to do this and where I acquired such self-assurance, it is first of all necessary for me to explain that before this period of my life I had often been engaged in all sorts of commercial and financial undertakings, and was already considered by all who came in contact with me in this sphere a very astute business man.

‘And further, I must tell you something of my early upbringing, which, from my experienced point of view, corresponds most nearly to the ideal formed in me on the subject of education. Owing to this upbringing I could then, and perhaps if required can still today, go one better than any business man whatever, and perhaps even than you American business men.

‘It is particularly appropriate to tell you certain details of my education, since we are gathered today to celebrate the opening of an institution which has as its fundamental aim the correct, harmonious education of man the more so, since this institution is based on experimental data accumulated over the course of many years and thoroughly verified by me—that very man who has sacrificed almost his whole personal life to the study of this vital question of education, so painful for the present day, and who, having been brought up by people with normally developed consciences, has been able to acquire the capacity, no matter what the circumstances, always to be impartial.

‘The strongest intentional influence exerted upon me was that of my father, who understood education quite in his own way.

‘I even intend at some time to write a whole book about all the direct and indirect methods of my father which ensued from his original views on education.

‘As soon as there appeared in me the signs of a more or less correct comprehension, he began, among other things, to tell me all kinds of extraordinary tales, which always led up to a series of stories about a certain lame carpenter, named Mustapha, who knew how to do everything and one day even made a flying armchair.

‘By this means and by other “persistent procedures” my father fostered in me, along with the desire to be like this expert carpenter, the irresistible urge always to be making something new. All my childhood games, even the most ordinary ones, were enriched by my imagining that I was someone who did everything not as it is usually done, but in quite a special way.