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Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: As A Matter Of Course

THE ability to be easily and heartily amused brings a wholesome

reaction from intense thought or hard work of any kind which does

more towards keeping the nervous system in a normal state than

almost anything else of an external kind.

As a Frenchman very aptly said: "This is all very well, all this

study and care to relieve one's nerves; but would it not be much

simpler and more effective to go and amuse
ne's self ?" The same

Frenchman could not realize that in many countries amusement is

almost a lost art. Fortunately, it is not entirely lost; and the

sooner it is regained, the nearer we shall be to health and


One of the chief impediments in the way of hearty amusement is

over-seriousness. There should be two words for "serious," as there

are literally two meanings. There is a certain intense form of

taking the care and responsibility of one's own individual

interests, or the interests of others which are selfishly made one's

own, which leads to a surface-seriousness that is not only a chronic

irritation of the nervous system, but a constant distress to those

who come under this serious care. This is taking life _au grand

serieux_. The superficiality of this attitude is striking, and would

be surprising could the sufferer from such seriousness once see

himself (or more often it is herself) in a clear light. It is quite

common to call such a person over-serious, when in reality he is not

serious enough. He or she is laboring under a sham seriousness, as

an actor might who had such a part to play and merged himself in the

character. These people are simply exaggerating their own importance

to life, instead of recognizing life's importance to them. An

example of this is the heroine of Mrs. Ward's "Robert Elsmere," who

refused to marry because the family could not get on without her;

and when finally she consented, the family lived more happily and

comfortably than when she considered herself their leader. If this

woman's seriousness, which blinded her judgment, had been real

instead of sham, the state of the case would have been quite clear

to her; but then, indeed, there would have been no case at all.

When seriousness is real, it is never intrusive and can never be

overdone. It is simply a quiet, steady obedience to recognized laws

followed as a matter of course, which must lead to a clearer

appreciation of such laws, and of our own freedom in obeying them.

Whereas with a sham seriousness we dwell upon the importance of our

own relation to the law, and our own responsibility in forcing

others to obey. With the real, it is the law first, and then my

obedience. With the sham, it is myself first, and then the laws; and

often a strained obedience to laws of my own making.

This sham seriousness, which is peculiarly a New England trait, but

may also be found in many other parts of the world, is often the

perversion of a strong, fine nature. It places many stones in the

way, most of them phantoms, which, once stepped over and then

ignored, brings to light a nature nobly expansive, and a source of

joy to all who come in contact with it. But so long as the

"seriousness "lasts, it is quite incompatible with any form of real


For the very essence of amusement is the child-spirit. The child

throws himself heartily and spontaneously into the game, or whatever

it may be, and forgets that there is anything else in the world, for

the time being. Children have nothing else to remember. We have the

advantage of them there, in the pleasure of forgetting and in the

renewed strength with which we can return to our work or care, in

consequence. Any one who cannot play children's games with children,

and with the same enjoyment that children have, does not know the

spirit of amusement. For this same spirit must be taken into all

forms of amusement, especially those that are beyond the childish

mind, to bring the delicious reaction which nature is ever ready to

bestow. This is almost a self-evident truth; and yet so confirmed is

man in his sham maturity that it is quite common to see one look

with contempt, and a sense of superiority which is ludicrous, upon

another who is enjoying a child's game like a child. The trouble is

that many of us are so contracted in and oppressed by our own

self-consciousness that open spontaneity is out of the question and

even inconceivable. The sooner we shake it off, the better. When the

great philosopher said, "Except ye become as little children," he

must have meant it all the way through in spirit, if not in the

letter. It certainly is the common-sense view, whichever way we look

at it, and proves as practical as walking upon one's feet.

With the spontaneity grows the ability to be amused, and with that

ability comes new power for better and really serious work.

To endeavor with all your might to win, and then if you fail, not to

care, relieves a game of an immense amount of unnecessary nervous

strain. A spirit of rivalry has so taken hold of us and become such

a large stone in the way, that it takes wellnigh a reversal of all

our ideas to realize that this same spirit is quite compatible with

a good healthy willingness that the other man should win--if he can.

Not from the goody-goody motive of wishing your neighbor to

beat,--no neighbor would thank you for playing with him in that

spirit,--but from a feeling that you have gone in to beat, you have

done your best, as far as you could see, and where you have not, you

have learned to do better. The fact of beating is not of paramount

importance. Every man should have his chance, and, from your

opponent's point of view, provided you were as severe on him as you

knew how to be at the time, it is well that he won. You will see

that it does not happen again.

Curious it is that the very men or women who would scorn to play a

child's game in a childlike spirit, will show the best known form of

childish fretfulness and sheer naughtiness in their way of taking a

game which is considered to be more on a level with the adult mind,

and so rasp their nerves and the nerves of their opponents that

recreation is simply out of the question.

Whilst one should certainly have the ability to enjoy a child's game

with a child and like a child, that not only does not exclude the

preference which many, perhaps most of us may have for more mature

games, it gives the power to play those games with a freedom and

ease which help to preserve a healthy nervous system.

If, however, amusement is taken for the sole purpose of preserving a

normal nervous system, or for returning to health, it loses its zest

just in proportion. If, as is often the case, one must force one's

self to it at first, the love of the fun will gradually come as one

ignores the first necessity of forcing; and the interest will come

sooner if a form of amusement is taken quite opposite to the daily

work, a form which will bring new faculties and muscles into action.

There is, of course, nothing that results in a more unpleasant state

of ennui than an excess of amusement. After a certain amount of

careless enjoyment, life comes to a deadly stupid standstill, or the

forms of amusement grow lower. In either case the effect upon the

nervous system is worse even than over-work.

The variety in sources of amusement is endless, and the ability to

get amusement out of almost anything is delightful, as long as it is

well balanced.

After all, our amusement depends upon the way in which we take our

work, and our work, again, depends upon the amusement; they play

back and forth into one another's hands.

The man or the woman who cannot get the holiday spirit, who cannot

enjoy pure fun for the sake of fun, who cannot be at one with a

little child, not only is missing much in life that is clear

happiness, but is draining his nervous system, and losing his better

power for work accordingly.

This anti-amusement stone once removed, the path before us is

entirely new and refreshing.

The power to be amused runs in nations. But each individual is in

himself a nation, and can govern himself as such; and if he has any

desire for the prosperity of his own kingdom, let him order a public

holiday at regular intervals, and see that the people enjoy it.