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.