Light-heartedness and animal spirits.


Oh! what a delightful quality it is, both to the possessor and his friends. Lightheartedness is sometimes confused with “animal spirits,” but it is not at all the same thing. The latter we share with the young lambs in the meadows, the young goats on the rocky hillsides, the merry schoolboy in the days of his irresponsible youth, and the madcap schoolgirl who thinks those hours lost that are not spent in laughing. Light-heartedness is ingrained in the very nature of those who enjoy it; while animal spirits are merely one of the exterior circumstances, incident to youth and health in a world that was created happy, and will never lose traces of that original Divine intention. Cheerfulness, again, is distinct from both. Men are always telling women that it is the duty of the less-burdened sex to meet their lords and masters with cheerful faces; and if any doubt were felt as to the value of the acquirement— for cheerfulness often has to be acquired and cultivated like any other marketable accomplishment —shall we not find a mass of evidence in the advertisement columns of the daily papers? Do not all the lady-housekeepers and companions describe themselves as “cheerful”? Lone, lorn women could scarcely be successes in either capacity, and cheerfulness is a distinct qualification for either post. A sort of feminine Mark Tapleyism must occasionally be needed to produce it, and keep it in full bloom.

In trouble and work.

Well, ’tis our duty to be cheerful, and those of us that are lighthearted have no difficulty about it. The quality survives troubles of every sort, and lifts its possessor over many a Slough of Despond, into which the heavy-hearted would sink and be overwhelmed. And what a boon is lightheartedness when there is work to do! The man who whistles over his carpentering is happy, and his work is all the better for it. The mother who is chirpy in the nursery finds it an easy matter to manage the youngsters. They adore her bright face. And there are women who keep up this delightful sunniness of disposition well on to seventy years.

“The world that knows itself too sad
Is proud to keep some faces glad,”

says Owen Meredith, and it is good to see the happy twinkle in some aged eyes.

With advancing years.

The humours of life.

In married life there comes a time when the romance of love, like a glorious “rose of dawn,” softening down into the steady light of noonday, becomes transmuted into a comfortable, serviceable, everyday friendship and comradeship. In the same way the animal spirits of youth often fade with maturity into a seriousness which is admirable in its way, a serenity which keeps a dead level of commonplace. If there is no natural lightheartedness to fall back upon, there then arises the everyday man or woman, with countenance composed to the varied businesses of life, and never a gleam of fun or humour to be found in eyes or lips. They go to the play on purpose to laugh, and enjoy themselves hugely in the unwonted exercise of facial muscles; but for weeks between whiles they seem unconscious of the infinite possibilities of humorous enjoyment that lie about them. It needs the joyous temperament to extract amusement from these. If that is absent the fields of fun lie fallow. At a recent entertainment for children a boy employed in selling chocolate creams cried his wares in such a lugubrious tone of voice as to be highly inconsistent with their inviting character. “Chocklits!” “Chocklits!” he groaned on the lower G, as though he had been vending poison for immediate use. Only two of the children present saw the fun of this. And so it is with these endless unrehearsed effects of daily life. The lighthearted seize them and make of them food for joy. And lightheartedness is of every age, from seven to seventy-seven and perhaps beyond it. Was there not once a blithe old lady who lived to the age of 110, and died of a fall from a cherry tree then?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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