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Questionable Amusements and Worthy Substitutes Part 3

WHAT TO READ.

First of all read something. "Southey tells us that, in his walk one stormy day, he met an old woman, to whom, by way of greeting, he made the rather obvious remark that it was dreadful weather. She answered, philosophically, that in her opinion, 'any weather was better than none.'" And so we would say, excluding corrupt literature, any reading is better than none! In this day of multiplicity of books who who never reads may not be an ignoramus nor a fool, but certainly he robs the world of much that is useful in character, and deprives himself of much that enriches his own soul. Then one should select his books, as he does his associates, and not attempt to read everything that comes in his way. No longer may one know even a little about every thing. It might be a mark of credit rather than an embarrassment for one to answer, "No,"

to the question, "Have you read the latest book?" when the fact is recalled that 30,000 novels have been published within the past eighty years, and that five new ones are added to the list daily.

READ HISTORY.

One has characterized history as both the background and the key to all knowledge. No other class of reading so much as this helps one to appreciate his own country, his own age, his own surroundings. Extensive reading of history is a sure remedy for pessimism, prejudice, and fanaticism. In so far as history is an accurate account of the past, it is a true prophecy of the future for the nation and for the individual.

Who reads history knows that men always have displayed folly, Weakness, and cruelty, and that they always will, even to their own obvious ruin.

Also he knows that every time and place have had their few good men and women who have honored God, and whom God has honored. Nothing so teaches a person his own insignificance and the small part that he plays in the world as does the reading of history. Nor is history to be found only in the book called history. If you want to know the life of the ancients, as you know the life of your own community, read Josephus. Do you want a glimpse of early apostolic times, read "The Life and Times of Jesus," by Edersheim. Do you want to see the battlefield of Waterloo, visit Paris in the beginning of the nineteenth century, stop over night with Louis Philippe, see the English through French spectacles, and the Frenchman through his own; do you want a glimpse of the political despotism, court intrigue, and ecclesiastical tyranny in France a hundred years ago; do you want to hear the crash of the bastile, and see Notre Dame converted into a horse-stable; do you want a picture of the "bread riots" and mob violence that terminated in the French revolution of 1848; in short do you want a tale of French life and character in its brightest, gloomiest, and intensest period, read "Les Miserables," by Victor Hugo.

To-day one must read current history. It is not enough to plan, work, and economize, one must make and seize opportunities. And this he can do only as he is alive to passing events. In a few years one may outgrow his usefulness through losing touch with advancing ideas and methods of work. To keep abreast of the times one must read the newspaper and the magazine. The newspaper is the history of the hour, the magazine is the history of the day. The magazine corrects the newspaper, and "sums up in clear and noble phrase those fundamental facts which are only dimly seen in the newspaper." A serious and growing tendency is that the newspaper and magazine shall take the place of the best books. A few minutes a day is enough for any newspaper, and a few hours a month is enough for any magazine. The greatest part of one's reading should be that of books.

Who gormandizes on current events will pay the price with a morbid mind and with false conclusions in his reasoning.

READ BIOGRAPHY.

The life of a great man is a continual inspiration. No other exercise so fires a soul with noble ambition as the study of a great life. Real life is not only stranger than fiction, but it is more interesting than fiction. No boy should be without the life of Washington, of Lincoln, of Webster, of Franklin. Every girl should know by heart brave Pocahontas, sympathetic Mrs. Stowe, queenly Frances Willard, and kind-hearted Victoria. No private library is complete without Plutarch's "Lives," the "Life of Alfred the Great," of Napoleon, Grant, and Gladstone.

READ SCIENCE.

The fourteen-year-old child may master the practical principles of natural philosophy, and yet how many intelligent persons remain ignorant of the most commonplace truths in this branch of learning! With a little attention to the natural and mechanical sciences, a new world of beauty and truth opens up before one. He sees objects that once were hid to him; he hears sounds that once were silent; he enjoys odors that once retained their fragrance. His whole being becomes a part of the living musical world about him, when he has his senses opened to appreciate it and to become attuned to it. One should read some science throughout his life, in order to remain at the source of all true knowledge. Here he learns to appreciate the language of nature. When expressed by man, this is poetry.

THEREFORE, READ POETRY.

Ten minutes a day with Tennyson, Browning, Emerson, or Lowell, will teach one a new language, by which he may converse with the wind, talk with the birds, chat with the brook, speak with the flowers, and hold discourse with the sun, moon, and stars. The deepest and mightiest thoughts of all ages have been expressed in poetry, the language of nature. "Poetry," says Coleridge, "is the blossom and fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, passions, emotions, languages."

READ BOOKS OF RELIGION.

"Religion," says Lyman Abbott, "is the life of God in the soul." Every truly religious book treats of this life. The only purely religious book is the Bible. It is the source and inspiration of every other religious book. The Bible is a "letter from God to man, handed down from heaven and written by inspired men." Its message is free salvation for all men through Jesus Christ; its spirit is divine love. No wise person is without this letter, and every thoughtful and devout person reads it daily. One may never find time to follow a course of study, nor to pursue a plan of daily reading; he may never know the wealth of Dante, the grandeur of Milton, nor the genius of Shakespeare, but every one may make the Bible his daily companion and guide.

HOW TO READ.

Enter into what you read. No book can thrill and move one unless he gives himself up to it. Lack of fixed attention is the cause of the half-informed mind, the faulty reason, and the ever-failing memory. The cause of this lack of attention may be an historical allusion of which one is ignorant, or a new word that he fails to look up, or an overtaxed mind, or unfavorable surroundings. Whatever may be this hindrance it must be removed or overcome before one can enter into what he reads. A thought is of no value until it registers itself and takes a room in the mind. This is why we are told on every hand, that a few books well read are worth more than many books poorly read. The secret of Abraham Lincoln's power as a public speaker lay in his clear reasoning, simple statement, and apt illustration. This secret was secured by Lincoln through his habit of mastering whatever he heard in conversation or reading. "When a mere child," says Lincoln, "I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand. I don't think I ever got angry at anything else in my life. But that always disturbed my temper, and has ever since. I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, trying to make out what was the exact meaning of some of their, to me, dark sayings. I could not sleep, though I often tried to, when I got on such a hunt after an idea, until I had caught it, and when I thought I had got it, I was not satisfied until I had repeated it over and over; until I had put it in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend. This was a kind of passion with me, and it has stuck by me; for I am never easy now when I am handling a thought until I have bounded it north, and bounded it south, and bounded it east, and bounded it west." And so to enter into what one reads, means that he will master the thought. The most that a university can do for one is to teach him to read. Who has learned how to read has secured a liberal education, however or wherever he may have learned it.

Then, one should learn to scan an author. This means to take a rapid observation of his thoughts. Much of one's common reading matter should be scanned. All local news, much magazine literature, and many books should be used in this way. It is mental sloth and waste of time to pore over a newspaper or a book of light fiction, as one would a philosophy of history or a work of science. As Bacon aptly puts it, "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others." One's mind is like a horse, it soon learns its master. Feed it well, groom it well, treat it gently, you may expect much from it. It is reported of Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis that he has read a book a day for over twenty years. He has learned to squeeze the thought out of a book at a grasp, as one of us would squeeze the juice from an orange. Take a glimpse into his library. Five hundred volumes of sociological literature, four hundred volumes of history, two hundred of cyclopedias, gazetteers, books of reference; four hundred volumes of pure science, one hundred volumes of travels, two hundred and fifty volumes of biography; one hundred volumes of art and art history; a section on psychology, ethics, philosophy, and the relation between science and religion, and a thousand volumes of literature, pure and simple.

WHEN TO READ.

First, read at regular hours. This is for those who follow literary pursuits. No professional person should respect himself in his work who has no special time for reading and study, and who does not conscientiously adhere to it. The pulpit, the law-office, the doctor's office, the teacher, and the editor's desk, each clamors for the man, the woman, who can think. To appreciate God and to sympathize with the human heart; to know law and the intricate special case; to understand disease and relief for the suffering patient; to have something to teach and to know how to teach it even to the dullest pupil; to know human character and to be able to enlighten the public mind and the public conscience; all this requires in the one who serves a deep and growing knowledge and experience which may be realized only in the grasp of truth contained in the up-to-date and best authorized books. The use of books with this class of persons is not optional. They must buy and master them, or a few years at longest will relegate them with their old books and ideas to the dusty garret where they belong.

Then, many must read on economized time. The farmer, the mechanic, the merchant, the shopkeeper, each may find a little time for daily reading.

Ten minutes saved in the morning, ten minutes in the afternoon, and ten minutes in the evening, this is half hour a day. In a week this gives one three hours and a half, in a month fourteen hours of solid reading, and in a year one will have read seven days of twenty-four hours each.

Think of what may be accomplished in an average lifetime in common reading by the busiest person, who really wants to read. "Schliemann,"

the noted German scholar and author, "as a boy, standing in line at the post-office waiting his turn for the mail, utilized the time by studying Greek from a little pocket grammar." "Mary Somerfield, the astronomer, while busy with her children in the nursery, wrote her 'Mechanism of the Heavens,' without neglecting her duties as a mother." "Julius Caesar, while a military officer and politician found time to write his Commentaries known throughout the world." William Cobbett says: "I learned grammar when I was a private soldier on a six-pence a day.

The edge of my guard-bed was my seat to study in, my knapsack was my bookcase, and a board lying on my lap was my desk. I had no moment at that time that I could call my own; and I had to read and write among the talking, singing, whistling, and bawling of at least half a score of the most thoughtless of men." Among those whom we all know who have risen out of obscurity to eminence through a wise economy of time which they have used in reading and study, are, Patrick Henry, Benjamin West, Eli Whitney, James Watt, Richard Baxter, Roger Sherman, Sir Isaac Newton, and Benjamin Franklin.

VII. SOCIAL RECREATION.

DEFINED.

The normal young person who does not dissipate is bursting with life.

The natural child is activity embodied. The healthful old person craves exercise. Life, activity, exercise, each must have some method of spending itself. Some normal method, some right method, some attractive method must be chosen. By normal method we mean that which calls into use the varied faculties and powers of the entire being, body, mind, and heart. By right method we mean that which does not crush out a part of one's being, while another part is being developed. By attractive method in the use of life, activity, exercise, we mean that which appeals to one's peculiar desires, tastes, and circumstances, so long as these are normal and right. Some chosen profession, trade, or work is the rightful heritage of every person. Each man, woman, and child should know when he gets up of a morning, what his work is for that day. Consciously, or unconsciously, he should have some outline of work, some end in view, some goal toward which he is stretching himself. Dr. J. M. Buckley asks: "Have you a purpose and a plan?" And answers, "Life is worth nothing till then." The child is in the hands of his parent, his teacher, his guardian. These must answer to Destiny for his beginning and growth.

"Satan finds something for idle hands to do." Hence the necessity of vigilance on the part of those who hold the young. But "all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy." This rule is good whether "Jack" be a puny girl, a feeble grandfather, a hustling, responsible father, a busy mother, or even a mischievous lad. Every person who rises each morning, dresses himself and goes about his work as if he knew what he were about; who has some useful work to do, and does it, sooner or later, needs rest. True, night comes and one may rest. And sweet is the rest of sleep; a third of one's life is passed in this way. Sancho Panza has it right when he says:

"Now blessing light on him that first invented sleep! It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot." But one craves a recreation, a rest which work nor sleep can give. Man has a social nature, a longing to mingle with his acquaintances and friends.

Let one be shut in with work, or sickness, or weather, for whole days at a time, and see how hungry he gets to see some one. A recreation at a social gathering literally makes a new being out of him. He is recreated. It is this form of recreation that we consider here, social recreation.

A NECESSITY.

Social recreation is a necessity in a well-ordered life. As with many other common blessings we forget its benefits. Nor are these benefits so evident until we see the blighting result in the life of the one who, for any reason whatsoever, has become a social recluse. We have known a few persons who have once been in society, but who have allowed themselves to remain away from all sorts of gatherings, for a number of years. In every case, the result has been openly noticeable. They have become boorish in manners, unsympathetic in nature, and suspicious in spirit. Thus they have grown out of harmony with the ideas and ways of those about them, have come to take distorted and erroneous views of affairs and of men. Man is a composite being. Many factors enter into his make-up. He lives not only in the physical and intellectual, in the religious and social, in a local and limited sense, but his life expands until it touches and molds many other characters and communities besides his own. In all of these spheres of his influence and work on needs to be sobered down, corrected, stimulated. In no other way is this better accomplished than through one's very contact with his fellows in the religious gathering, among his workmen, in the political meeting, at the assembly, in the social gathering whenever and wherever persons may see one another and talk over common interests.

A SPECIFIC SENSE.

In a specific sense, by social recreation, we mean those pastimes and pleasures which all persons, except the social recluse, enjoy as they meet to spend an afternoon or an evening together. Now, how may we get the largest amount of pleasure, of rest, of recreation from such gatherings? How may we best benefit ourselves, inspire one another, and in it all, honor God? It is no small task to accomplish these three ends in all things, in one's life. We have agreed that some social practices are positively bad. And we have tried to show why the "tobacco club,"

the "social glass," the "card-party," the "dancing-party," and the play-house reveries should be avoided. We have left these forms of so-called "questionable amusements" out of our practice and let our of our lives. To what may we turn? Where may we go? We turn to the social gathering.

BUT IT MUST BE PLANNED.

No social gathering can successfully run itself. See what forethought and expenditure are given to make successful the "smoking-club," the "wine-social," the "card and dancing parties," and the "theater." Not one of these institutions thrive without thought and cost in their management. Put the same thought and expense into the gathering for social recreation, and you will find all of the merits of the questionable institution and none of its demerits. No company has larger capabilities than the mixed company at the social gathering. Nor may any purpose be more perfectly served than the purpose of true social recreation. Here we find those skilled in music, versed in literature, adept at conversation; we find the practical joker, the proficient at games, and last, but not least, those "born to serve" tables. This variety of genius, of wit, of skill, of willingness to serve, is laid at the altar of pleasure for the worthy purpose of making new again the weary body, the languishing spirit, the lonely heart. Let the right management and stimulus be given to this resourceful company, and the hours will pass as moments, the surest sign of a good time.

SOME ESSENTIALS.

DINING, SOCIAL HOUR, GAMES.

No social recreation is complete without dining. And yet the least important part of this meal should be the taking of food. It is a serious fault with the modern social that too much attention is given to the variety and quantity of food, and not enough to merriment in taking it. To be successful, the social company should gather as early as possible; the first hour-and-a-half should be given to greetings and to social levity of the brightest and wittiest sort. If one has an ache or a pain, a care or a loss, let it be forgotten now. It is weakness and folly continually to be under any burden. Here every one should take a genuine release from seriousness and earnestness in weighty and responsible affairs. Let all, except the serving committee for this evening, take part in this strictly social hour-and-a-half. When the late-comers have arrived and have been introduced, and the people have moved about and met one another, almost before the company are aware of it they are invited by the serving committee to dine. Usually all may not be served at once. Now that the company has been thinned out, the older persons having gone to the tables, short, spirited games should be introduced in which every person not at luncheon, should be given a place and a part. At this juncture it is not best to introduce sitting-games, such as checkers, authors, caroms, or flinch, for the contestants might be called to take refreshments at a critical moment in the contest. With a little attention to it, appropriate games may be introduced here that need not interfere with luncheon. Fully half an hour should be spent at each set of tables, where at the close of the meal, some humorous subject or subjects should be introduced and responded to be those best fitted for such a task. Almost any person can say something bright as well as sensible, if he will give a little attention to it beforehand. While the second and third tables are being served, let those retiring contest at games of skill, converse, or take up other appropriate entertainment directed by the everywhere present entertainment committee. By this time half-past ten or eleven o'clock, some who are old, or who have pressing duties on the next day may want to retire. If the serving committee have been skillful in adjusting the time spent at each table to the number of tables, etc., by eleven o'clock the serving shall have been completed. Now, the young in spirit, whether old or young, expect, and should have an hour at the newest, liveliest, and most recreative games. No part of the evening entertainment should be allowed to drag. To insure this a frequent change of social games is needed.

AVOID LATE HOURS.

As late hours tend to produce irregularity in sleep, in meals, and in work; and since the object of the social is recreation, the company should retire about midnight. Oftentimes people stay and stay at such a gathering, until the hostess, the entertaining committee, and the people themselves are worn out. And yet, who is at fault? This is a critical point in the modern popular social. How shall the company disband in due season? In his "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," Oliver Wendell Holmes gives a suggestion on this point for the private visitor, who does not know how to go. Says Holmes: "Do n't you know how hard it is for some people to get out of a room when their visit is really over? They want to be off, and you want to have them off, but they do n't know how to manage it. One would think they had been built in your parlor or study and were waiting to be launched. I have contrived a sort of ceremonial inclined plane for such visitors, which being lubricated with certain smooth phrases, I back them down, metaphorically speaking, stern-foremost, into their 'native element,' the great ocean of outdoors." There are social companies as hard to get rid of as this.

They want to go, and every one wants them to go, but just how to make the start, no one seems to know. Dr. Holmes and his "inclined plane"

may have been successful with the private caller, but who will be the "contriver of a ceremonial," one sufficient to land the social company into its "native element, the great ocean of outdoors?" No, this most delicate of the problems involved in a successful modern social must be left to a tactful hint from the entertainment committee, and to the wise choice of a few recognized leaders in the company.

NEW COMMITTEES.

Special committees should have charge of the serving and of the entertainment. As far as possible these should vary with each successive social. It is an erroneous notion, prevalent in nearly every community, that only "certain ones" can do this or that; the consequence is that these "certain ones" do all the work, are deprived of the true rest and relief which the social is meant to give, while others who should take their turn, grow unappreciative, and weak in their serving and entertaining ability.

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