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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1936

"La Joie de Vivre"

page 32

"La Joie de Vivre"

"Until a man can enjoy himself he will grow more and more tired of enjoying everything else. What we have to teach him is to amuse himself. At this moment he only asks what will amuse him. And to judge by the expression on his face, it does not amuse him very much. When we consider what he receives, it is indeed a most magnificent concentration of amusement. He can travel in a racing-car almost as quick as a cannon-ball, and still have his car fitted up with wireless from all the ends of the earth. But all this does not help him, when the car stops; and he has to stand in a lane with nothing to think about. All this does not help him even when the wireless stops and he has to sit in a silent car with nothing to talk about. But if you consider what comes out of him as a result of all this absorption, the result we have to record is rather curious. In the vast majority of cases, nothing. Not even conversation, as it used to be. The first and startling effect of all this noise is silence. When he speaks it is with irritation. Do not think I am unfair to the whole trend of the time if I say it is intellectually irritated, and therefore without that sort of rich repose in the mind which I mean when I say that a man when he is alone can be happy because he is alive."

These were some of the words spoken by G.K.C. in a wireless talk at the beginning of the year. It is indeed sad to think that he is now dead or as he would have preferred, that he has "ended with a bang"! But it is sadder to know that his words are disturbingly true. La joie de vivre. The joy of being alive. Is there any spice in the life of a university student?

The very word "student" should furnish the answer. To study; to acquire knowledge; to delve; to think—these should be his "joie de vivre"! That is as it should be, but not as it is. Instead, overshadowed by the grim necessity for passing examinations and by the worship of success, students are utterly divorced from the joyous inconsequential learning that alone breeds culture. Everyone studies so that he or she may earn more money. Study is proceeded with, not for the sheer joy of studying but because it is a necessary though unpleasant means of achieving ultimate "success"—that is, money.

Sapientia magis auro desideranda! Mr. de la Mare was cynically correct when he translated this noble phrase as "Wisdom is to be desired for the sake of more gold." The student no longer possesses the title to the use of the word "study." His joie de vivre must be sought in other fields. It is evident that students are afflicted with this prevalent canker of irritation. Solitude is not enjoyed, it is endured. When he is released from the rigours of self-imprisonment in his study, the student now seeks talkies, wireless, noise, speed, everything that is ephemeral, superficial and shallow.

The plain fact of the matter is that the world has slipped its moorings and is ploughing along at a breakneck speed, jolting minds, bodies, books and beliefs so suddenly and so heavily that life has lost is joy. Study for study's sake has vanished and yet we are still trying to study under a system that belongs to the time that has past. "Rich repose in the mind." How is that possible for students now, when their very study is distasteful? It is his "joie" no longer —rather is it his bête noire.

And year after year this irritation grows more acute. No remedy has been found. Tomorrow we will fly from New Zealand to England; to-morrow we will invent a more fatal weapon of war; and yet to-morrow we will be studying in the identical manner in which we study now and in which our ancestors studied. They lived in a world for which their study was adapted. We do not. They had leisure, silence and tranquillity. We have not. Their study was their joie de vivre. Ours is not.

Are we not driven to irritation? Our system and our methods are out of tune with the age. The world of study has not yet adapted itself. And so in our hour of trial we cry—à quoi bon?