The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)
Things Worth While
The essence of Existence is a discreet selection of the things worth while and a positive rejection of tinselled jim-cracks which glitter like gold but ring like lead. Only experience, both bitter and sweetened, can prove the worth of each article of Life's litter; but, as one man's meat is another man's dyspepsia, far be it from me to dogmatise upon the things that count and those that are deficient in arithmetic.
But, were I asked to designate three things which count most to me, I should say:
The Language of Laughter.
Laughter, because laughter is the world's universal language understood equally by the Hottentot, the Zulu and the Hindoo.
The power of laughter is a power for good. It raises the spirits, purifies the soul, testifies to tolerance, kills resentment, routs enmity, disrupts distrust, promotes understanding, makes all skins kin, puts Man “one up” on the beasts of the field and only one down on the gods of Olympus. It is the best peace propaganda known to civilisation, being more easily understood than Esperanto or “desperanto.” It says more with less expenditure of air than any other form of human expression.
The person who laughs easiest lives easiest, and the nation which laughs longest lasts longest.
But a laugh must be a Laugh. It must have its origin far below the front collar stud. Its source must be the heart; it must be reflected in the eyes; it must even influence the feet. It must permeate the personality, titillate all territory, shake the frame with subterranean joviality and emerge full, vibrant and unstinted.
A snigger is sly, a giggle is a laugh gone wrong, a smile is a compromise, but a real laugh is a day-dream on holiday.
It may never be proved, but it's reasonable to guess that laughter has done more to promote progress than money, mortgages and motors. Probably, before man learned to laugh he was crueller and cruder. Certainly, when the “s” is subtracted from “slaughter” we have “laughter.”
Laughing lessons should be included in school curricula; there should be laughter leagues; each meal should be preceded by “laughter before meat.” Every married man should make a vow at the altar that he will make his wife laugh before breakfast each day, and she should promise to make him laugh—even when she presents bills for hats. The League of Nations should make laughter its big bet for producing international understanding and, instead of a muzzy murmur in fifty-seven varieties of language, the one universal language of laughter should rattle the rafters in the Palace of Peace. Mussolini and the King of Abyssinia should get together and have a real good laugh. Hitler should laugh instead of getting “Nazty.”
Memories, because they are milestones on the path of personal progress, pleasant revivals of purple patches from the past, or object lessons in what to do, and what not to do, in the present and future.
Memories are not necessarily the prerogative of Old-age mumbling in the inglenook, nor are they the secret vice of “dreamers.” They are little lessons in life to be turned up for reference when occasion demands. And so I am one of those who say:
Let's shake the coloured prisms of the past,
Whose colours grow more vivid with the years—
Kaleidoscopic patterns changing fast, Old hopes, ambitions, loves and hates and fears;
All there! Vignetted memories, brightly tinted,
Provided one retains the power to capture
The things that passing Time has never stinted—page 61
The darting shafts of Memory's pain and rapture;
Impressions coloured yellow, red or blue,
Or multi-coloured like a rainbow's sash,
Or monotone, with no relieving hue, Or recollection like a crimson splash Upon the spattered palette of the mind—
For every recollection has its dye—Unless, of course, one draws a mental blind,
Or wears a patch upon one's inmost eye.
Memories are an entertainment, a moving picturegraph on the silver sheet of one's mentality. You press the button on your mental picture projector (if you are so constituted) and the reel of retrospect slips smoothly past the lens. The result may not be as hectic as the Harlow, it may not grip like the Gable, or have the “hypo” of Hollywood, but, as your own personal property, it is the most moving “movie” of them all — and it doesn't cost a thing.
Sitting here I press the button and shoot a “short,” willy-nilly and at random, releasing a reel that makes itself as it goes. Here's what I see without conscious effort:
Horses racing on a hard beach; thudding hoofs, sand thrown into the eyes and mouth. Waving tails, undulating backs wet with sweat, flying manes, a sense of being catapulted through the air, and a heart thudding to the tune of the hoofs' tattoo.
A prison gate with its little grid, like a bird cage on a monastery wall. A click, and a face appears; scrutiny, explanation and a shooting of bolts. A long yard painfully tidy, a row of barred windows and the words streaming through the mind. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” (I hasten to explain that I was a visitor, not a boarder).
A stripling willow against the setting sun, on a promontory in Lake Rotorua—like a silhouette on a Japanese fan.
A doctor snipping the catch of his brown bag at a bedside.
A rabbit washing its whiskers among young grass.
My grandfather lighting his cherry-wood pipe.
A little girl sweeping leaves from a gate.
A log across a black pool.
An aproned woman waving to a train from the door of an unpainted shack.
Green and red lights reflected in the harbour.
Impressions! A packet of snapshots of no intrinsic value except as an illustration of my meaning; but each impression is impregnated with the colour of its surrounding circumstance.
The Kick of Spring.
Spring, because spring is rather an emotion than a season. It is the soul's shedding of winter's wet overcoat; the splitting of the cocoon which releases the spirit from winter's bondage. It is a period of contemplation, renovation and inspiration.
But spring has its penalties, like fame, fortune and festivity, though the vacuum cleaner has done much to reduce the pain of “the spring clean.” It can even suck up collar studs, stray ties, a vagrant sock or a pair of braces; it can even mop up a pair of pants, and so the human male is not yet freed from the annual agony of disruption and distraction consequent on the spring offensive. This is why, in the spring, strong men strew themselves over public parks and chew grass while they await the abatement of domestic disorder. They look rapt in contemplation but really it is estimation as to the time which should elapse before it is safe to return to the nuptial nest. And, speaking of nests, Bill the sparrow, about this time, brings home the first straw for the new residence, and roughly sketches out to his spring bride the design he proposes to adopt. Strictly speaking, it is the same old design used in all his previous matrimonial adventures, but somehow it seems bigger and better and different; such is the influence of spring.
The young salute the salubrity of the season with whoops of rude joy; thrushes gurgle, hens cackle, dogs bark with added abandon and nature and man revel in the awakening of the earth.
And that is why Spring is one of those events worth while. There are others such as birds and beasts, sunshine and stars, effort and sleep, but—enough! more than enough.