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Then as a matter of mental sanity. Physicians tell us that it is not an easy thing to draw the line between sane people and insane people. I consider that many a man who is outside the asylum is not entirely sane. Sanity, in the true, broad sense of that word, recognizes the relative importance of things, recognizes the relations in which the different interests of life stand to each other. You know how easy it is for a man to become what we call a monomaniac. He may be perfectly sane in other directions; but he has thought and thought and thought about some one thing until he has exaggerated the importance of that out of all relation to other things. And we say, Here is the beginning of insanity. Now, you take a man who thinks that the attainment of a certain amount of money is the most important thing in the world, who thinks about it and thinks about it and thinks about it, and gives his life to it, to the neglect of his family, to the neglect of the higher interests of his own nature, to the neglect of that kind of charity and missionary effort that recognizes the welfare of the world, to the neglect of spiritual culture, to the neglect of everything that is finely and highly human and manlike,- that is not being sane, though he may have so much company that those who are with him do not recognize it as insanity. Take a man such as I used to know intimately, who, in the last six or eight or ten years of his life, was haunted by the idea that he was going to die poor, though he was worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars, with everything well invested. Is a man like that sane? And what is the cause of this insanity? Nothing in the world but this tense mental strain over the attainment of this one particular thing. There are thousands of men who, in the eager pursuit, the hot and intense pursuit, of some one object of ambition, are ready to sacrifice happiness, ready to sacrifice health, ready to sacrifice their friends, their honor, their ability to help the world ; and these men They need to learn to play a little. They need to pause in their hot pursuit, and look around them, and see that
are not sane.
there are other things and interests in the world, other sources of happiness, and so regain their poise.
Then it follows from this that men need to play for the sake of their work. A man can do best that work which he loves; and he can do that work best when he is physically sound and mentally sane. There are thousands of men in America who break down when they are half through, who carry with them from that time on a diseased condition that cripples them at every step. They do not accomplish. nearly so much work as they would have done if they had learned how to play. They do not do as good work; and they do not accomplish it with as much ease.
Then another point, one that is hard for New Englanders, the children of the Puritans, to learn: we need to play for the mere sake of play. Emerson says in one of his poems to that beautiful flower, the rhodora, that "Beauty is its own excuse for being." I believe that play is its own excuse for being, that it needs no apology, if there be not something of more serious importance or deserving and demanding our attention just at the time, if we be not neglecting some duty; that is, in other words, if we have earned the right to play. I do not believe that there is any good whatever in work for its own sake. There is no virtue in work for its own sake. When I hear a man say, with a little touch of pride, that he has not taken a vacation for ten years, I feel like telling him that he ought to be ashamed of himself, that it is nothing to boast of. If a man has not played any for years, it is a thing that he should cover up, it is a thing to keep out of sight. Play has its own excuse for being. I do not believe that the God of this universe stands over us, as the old Puritan ideal seemed to picture him, with a lash, driving us on ever to the accomplishment of some task that must be done. Jesus said, "My Father worketh hitherto ; and I work." I would say as reverently, "My Father playeth hitherto; and I play." When I look in summer at the clouds drifting across the face of the blue; when I hear the birds sing all the morning; when I walk in the fields, and
see the trout darting in the brook, and the brook itself rippling in music adown the hillside; when I stand or lie in the pine woods, and hear the music of the winds in their boughs; when I sit on the seashore, and watch the laughter of the million waves, the sunlight glinting upon them, and hear them break in music at my feet; when I look over the whole face of creation, and see everywhere the color, the beauty, the joy,— I believe that we must reconstruct our ideas of God, so as to find room in his nature for play.
Lowell, on a certain occasion, breaks out, and says, “What a poet God is !” And there is a beautiful story of Tennyson when a friend was walking with him through the fields. They came to a pool ; and the old man dropped on his knees, and looked down into it, and watched the creatures that were dancing and playing through it, examined the shapes of the overhanging ferns, watched the myriad forms of life that were round him, and then exclaimed, “What an imagination God has !”
So, when I see all the joy and beauty and play of the world, and see how in the midst of the on-goings — great activities of nature - there is no trace of effort, then it seems to me that the one thing in the divine nature that overtops all thought of labor and effort is the play side, the gladness side, of his being.
But not all play is good. I wish to note, then, some of the dangers that attach themselves to the amusement side of human life. It may be well enough in the orthodox heaven to have it all play. According to that conception of things, men were either finished for good or for bad when they died; and so, of course, there is nothing more to be done.
But in this world, in the midst of the conditions that surround us on every hand, for any man merely to play is for him to be faithless to the highest and noblest aspects of his manhood. Take the condition of the nobility of most of the countries in Europe, who perhaps appoint some agent to look after their estates while they flock to the capitals, and,
taking their rents, live lives the year round of self-indulgence. Take the increasing number of people in this country who, having become immensely wealthy, have no more interest in accumulating, and give themselves simply to play. I cannot understand how any man, who is a man, can live a life like this, no matter how many millions he may have earned or become possessed of or may have inherited. And yet this is the ideal of many a man about town. He simply gives himself to amusement, to his club and games and sports of all kinds, forgetting that there are ignorant people in the world, stumbling and falling for lack of knowledge; forgetting that there are poor people suffering from cold and from hunger; forgetting that there are criminals born to careers of crime, degraded, breathing the air of the slums; forgetting that there is this great cry of an unfinished creation ever rising from every part of the earth to the heaven which is its hope. A man who can simply play in a world like this is a thief, because he is taking out of the accumulated good of the world, and putting nothing back in its place. He is heartless and selfish and brutal and cruel.
But there is another evil about play; that is, you may not play all the time, and yet may play too much. You may play when in so doing you neglect something which should be done in some other direction. Let me hint what I mean. It is not necessary to have prolonged discussion upon it. I know men and I know women who have plenty of time for play, but who never have any time to do anything for another. No matter what work is calling them, they never have any time to help their fellow-men. They have plenty of time for anything they wish to do. I know people, men and women, who have money enough for their amusements, money enough to give a reception, money enough for a card party, money enough to buy presents or prizes for contestants, money enough for anything that ministers to their amusements, who have never a dollar when some great need seeks for assistance. Here is another danger that attaches itself to the selfish indulgence in the things that people happen to like.
Then there are the plays that in their very nature hurt, the plays that belong to the lower side, the plays that drag us down, the plays which are not recreation, re-creation, but the plays which are dissipation, which leave us poorer, weaker, less manly, less womanly, leave us weary instead of recuperated. Every employer who has a large number of work-people knows the danger of holidays, when they are released from toil. Many a man saves up his wages in view of a debauch, a dissipation which he anticipates as a pleas
There are a thousand ways in which play may be hurtful, - in cards, in billiards, in theatres, in hunting, in fishing, in many directions. What ought a man to do? None of these things are wrong; but they can be used in such a way that we are the worse for indulgence. They can be used in such a way that we are lifted up and broadened and strengthened, and made finer and better thereby.
Let us, then, feel that, as we go into these things, we are going because we love them, because we find amusement in them, because we want rest and recreation ; but let us remember the distinction that is drawn right here. Every one of these things can be used to hurt us, and to hurt other people. Every one can be used to help us, and to help other people.
I am now to treat another side of the subject, and one that seems to me to point toward the future of amusements more and more for intelligent and high-minded people. We are engaged in our regular occupations: we are compelled to work, and to work hard. This is well. But, if we will only learn to be interested in something outside of our regular work, something (you may call it a hobby, if you will) interesting, something that shall call into activity the higher side of our nature, it will at the same time release us from the drudgery of toil, and rest that part of us which is engaged in earning money and in supplying the necessary wants of our lives.
As an illustration, let me mention some people that I have in mind. There are some men who work so hard that, when