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.
The mere idea of a brain clear from false impressions gives a sense of freedom which is refreshing.
In a comic journal, some years ago, there was a picture of a man in a most self-important attitude, with two common mortals in the background gazing at him. “What makes him stand like that?” said one. “Because,” answered the other, “that is his own idea of himself.” The truth suggested in that picture strikes one aghast; for in looking about us we see constant examples of attitudinizing in one’s own idea of one’s self. There is sometimes a feeling of fright as to whether I am not quite as abnormal in my idea of myself as are those about me.
If one could only get the relief of acknowledging ignorance of one’s self, light would be welcome, however given. In seeing the truth of an unkind criticism one could forget to resent the spirit; and what an amount of nerve-friction might be saved! Imagine the surprise of a man who, in return for a volley of abuse, should receive thanks for light thrown upon a false attitude. Whatever we are enabled to see, relieves us of one mistaken brain-impression, which we can replace by something more agreeable. And if, in the excitement of feeling, the mistake was exaggerated, what is that to us? All we wanted was to see it in quality. As to degree, that lessens in proportion as the quality is bettered. Fortunately, in living our own idea of ourselves, it is only ourselves we deceive, with possible exceptions in the case of friends who are so used to us, or so over-fond of us, as to lose the perspective.
There is the idea of humility,—an obstinate belief that we know we are nothing at all, and deserve no credit; which, literally translated, means we know we are everything, and deserve every credit. There is the idea, too, of immense dignity, of freedom from all self-seeking and from all vanity. But it is idle to attempt to catalogue these various forms of private theatricals; they are constantly to be seen about us.
It is with surprise unbounded that one hears another calmly assert that he is so-and-so or so-and-so, and in his next action, or next hundred actions, sees that same assertion entirely contradicted. Daily familiarity with the manifestations of mistaken brain-impressions does not lessen one’s surprise at this curious personal contradiction; it gives one an increasing desire to look to one’s self, and see how far these private theatricals extend in one’s own case, and to throw off the disguise, as far as it is seen, with a full acknowledgment that there may be—probably is—an abundance more of which to rid one’s self in future. There are many ways in which true openness in life, one with another, would be of immense service; and not the least of these is the ability gained to erase false brain-impressions.