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A Gospel of Humor.


Our Puritan ancestors were lacking, to a certain extent, in the saving grace of a sense of humor. There is a sublime ridiculousness in condemning one for not letting you think as you please, and then turning around and trying to make some others think as you please, with a penalty of death. Our forefathers were oppressed with an undue sense of right; they took life hard; and a part of our heritage is the feeling that pleasure is wrong: that unless we grind and give up all hope of enjoyment we will fail in the race.

No mistake could be greater. Even Ruskin, whose sense of humor is small, says you can get only dust by mere grinding. If you carry your labor, either of mind or body, beyond a certain definite limit, the waste of energy is incalculable. If you use your muscles too continuously and severely they will cramp and become as inflexible as a bar of iron. If your brain is too severely strained it will coagulate, so to speak, and your head will feel like a hard-boiled egg. If now you force yourself you will perhaps break the machine, and a collapse is one of the worst things that could happen to a man.

But one may labor, and labor hard, if every now and then he can stop and have a good laugh; if he do not take himself too seriously, and will come down off his pedestal and look about him and see the joy­ousness in life. Hard work does not kill: it is worry. And to worry shows a want of due perception of relative values: in other words, a lack of a sense of humor.

Oftentimes people think to lash up their jaded powers with some stimulant, an attempt to cheat Nature that demands a reckoning; for she always collects her debts and with interest. What you must do is to relax. Go off and have a good time; do what pleases you most; and above all laugh. If you can laugh heartily, you are all right. Probably your conscience will prick you at this waste of time, but remember that, as Mark Twain says, a conscience is of no use unless it is well under control. Your too-tender conscience is a part of your Puritan heritage, and it must be modified by training.

There is needed only a word. Life is not a picnic, pure and simple, and everyone has to decide for him­self just how much relaxation is necessary to keep him in tone. To the thoughtless and happy-go-lucky individual life is a joke already; but to the sincere worker there is needed rather the advice to go and have a little fun once in awhile and to relax. It is not too early for the hard-working teacher of music to be looking forward to the vacation-time and to plan for a period of true relaxation, of stimulation to body and mind, but on different lines from the work of the winter. If you need a little toning up now, have a little “fun” in your life. Don’t make a grind of your work, and a task of your music.

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You are reading A Gospel of Humor. from the May, 1902 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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