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is too strong is the saddest of defeats. Perhaps we should never succeed in loving defeated men if we hadn't the brains to recognize ourselves in their troubles. Perhaps to recognize our kinship, even in the most depraved, is enough to make the depraved seem likable. Perhaps this is why we like Falstaff.

But if he is so tragic, why do we smile at him? We don't smile at King Lear. Well, the recognition of a new truth gives always the sense of pleasure. A demonstration in geometry, unexpected and convincing, may make us smile. We are forced to laugh when our adversary in debate scores a point on us. He isn't necessarily funny, but he has opened our eyes. The value of a sense of humor to ourselves is that in the faults of others we are suddenly aware of tendencies in ourselves, and can therefore correct them. When our nerves are taut, when we have worked ourselves up into a prejudice of idea or emotion, when we have become, that is, mechanical and inflexible, the sudden vision of the same frailty in Micawber or Sir Austin Feverel helps us to relax. We are reminded of our common plight; we remember that perhaps the man against whom we cherish a temporary grudge is like ourselves the victim of his temperament. That is why the cultivation of humor is essential if we would survive in an advanced and complex society in which there will always be much to wear out the nerves and try the patience.


We smile too at the temperament which seems to show itself in inanimate things. They too have their personal cussedness, their exasperat

ing inflexibilities. To fight them is neither more nor less stupid than to contend with the fixed habits of our friends. We can only understand and adjust ourselves. Oddly enough, for most of us a sense of humor comes more easily when we are dealing with machines than when we are facing the mechanical element in men. We have no great difficulty in learning the whims of our typewriter or of our automobile. We know we have to humor the engine, since no two engines are exactly alike. We are even reluctant to let another drive it, who may not understand its ways. To deal so imaginatively and sympathetically with pathetically with human beings would be the height of wisdom, but the human engine at its simplest is complicated, and wisdom comes hard.

If we smile at Falstaff, is there any difference between comedy and tragedy? Not much. We usually call those stories comic in which the disaster is not too grim for us to detect a universal law of temperament, applicable to ourselves. If we understand the profound implications of humor, it makes little difference whether we call "Hamlet" a tragedy or a comedy. Some of us feel that "Much Ado" is as tragic as it is comic. "King Lear" and "Othello," and all the stories which are too terrible to serve as mirrors of ourselves, ought to have another name. Iago and Goneril are devils, outside of the moral world as most of us can conceive of it. Admiration for Shakspere prevents us from admitting freely that such characters are unintelligible, interesting only as monsters and nightmares. But the bulk of serious experience, no matter how

sad, is susceptible of illumination by a sense of humor, by a realization that in spite of human ignorance and stupidity, life is lovable, and that the faults which handicap others are mere variations of tendencies in ourselves.

With all the laughter in the world, there are very few funny books. "Humphry Clinker" is one, in English literature, and "Pickwick Papers" is another. In these stories we laugh at a succession of ridiculous incidents which illustrate nothing in particular, either about human nature or about the universe. Mr. Pickwick gets into the wrong room at the inn, and after he has gone to bed, the occupant, an old maid, enters and prepares to retire. The ridiculousness of the situation has nothing to do with the characters of the persons involved. If the characters did count in the episode, we should have to call on our sense of humor, and the fun would be translated into the more serious form of comedy. Humphry Clinker engages as postilion to the coachful of travelers, but when he mounts his horse his tattered breeches come apart. Fun, in this elementary form, is nothing but the recognition of absurdity. It calls for no effort of the intelligence, and it stimulates us to no sympathy. We sometimes say it is the occasion of harmless laughter.

On the other hand, there are many witty books. To turn a phrase so that the word or the cadence puts a fresh point on an old idea, is not difficult for an intelligent person who is willing to study the best models and keep in practice. The attempt at wit may easily prove vulgar, if the writer or speaker makes his point too broad,

and assumes too little alertness in his audience. The pleasure of successful wit is obvious, but by itself it does not necessarily imply great sympathy with life, nor a complete understanding of a neighbor's problems. Wit is sometimes the gift or the acquisition of a narrow heart and mind, and the employment of it by such a nature makes us fear that the clever point has been scored at some expense to truth.

Whether or not a book has wit, it can't be great without humor. If we say that the Bible is humorous, we are giving it the utmost praise. Not funny, and seldom witty, but almost always humorous. Think of the strongly marked temperament in Jacob or in Joseph. When we say they are very human, we are recognizing in the one a certain aptitude for trickery, which is in our temperament also, though perhaps less strongly marked-and we are fair enough to observe that Jacob had some better traits besides, which are less developed in us. In the other we recognize a most unpleasant habit of taking himself seriously, and of telling his family of his merits. We have caught ourselves at the same mischief, and we know that the family is always the worst audience to tell such news to. Or recall the little man who insisted on running to King David with the news of Absalom's death, but who didn't get the news straight and forgot it on the way. Or even David himself, on his death-bed, relapsing into a particularly tragic mood of vengeance, and giving Solomon a hint as to the treatment an old enemy ought to get. Such stories would be cynical if they were not humorous; to cite them as

though they did not belong in a sacred book is to be blind ourselves to humor, to that tragic behavior of our natures in those moments when we are weak or off our guard. How else could we interpret St. Peter's cowardice and repentance? Most delightful of all the Old Testament stories, perhaps, is that of Naomi and Ruth. We think more of it rather than less because Naomi, in stating her claim on her kindred to provide Ruth with a husband, passed over the near and poor relative, and set her heart on the wealthy Boaz. If we recognize her motives, it is because we have met them in ourselves.


It is usually thought that the sense of humor is a gift, not an art. Perhaps wit, like any other form of expression, is to some extent a gift, but it would be sad if we had to believe that the understanding of life is natural to some of us and withheld from others. Humor can be learned and taught. The method at its simplest would be constant admonition not to go blind in the routine of life. He that has eyes to see, let him see-and we all start with eyes to see. But education could go further. We could train ourselves to think of life not as an experience exclusive and personal to us, not as a conglomeration of lives all entirely different, but as a common condition and fate, in which each of us develops a few peculiarities, fewer and less important than we suppose. Once we have reached that idea, we can go on to the truth that the whole race, from age to age, changes little, no matter how fast the outer surface of civilization alters. Falstaff, Naomi, David

and Peter, Thersites and Hector, are still recognizable as mirrors of us, in spite of electricity and motor-cars and the philosophy of Freud. Well then, we have only to keep our love of life, and study the temperament of our fellows as we would the ruling passion of our pet automobile, and remembering how relatively unimportant those peculiarities are, humor them. To do this successfully, we must also study our own besetting queerness, and temper that to our suffering friends.

But we can't follow this old-fashioned and simple schooling unless we train ourselves first of all to think of human life in general terms. Since we do so to-day less often than our fathers did, we have a less rich sense of humor. The children used to study penmanship in copybooks, in which proverbs and mottoes, the cream of general experience, were constantly before their eyes. The old readers contained fables and more proverbs, the accumulated wisdom of the race about life in general. If young people now have meager ideas about human nature, and exaggerated notions of the uniqueness of their own personalities, it is because we have unintentionally fastened their attention on the temporary and exceptional aspects of their world. It's hard to have a sense of humor if you are brought up to be a special pleader. The writers to-day who make special pleas for one good cause or another, do so perforce without humor, because before they can envisage any human fate as special, they must discard temporarily that full view of life which sees the common heart and the common fate in us all.



II-The Challenge to the Church


GREAT American preacher recently characterized cynicism as religion's chiefest enemy, particularly when that cynicism is found among young people. His statement smacks of close contacts and intimate acquaintance with European youth. Cynicism has become its forte cynicism not only in relation to religion and religious problems, but touching all religious institutions and relationships and values.

It is a cynicism, however, which is not the outcome of leisured idleness or decadent intellectualism. It has not been cheap in the acquiring, nor will it easily disappear. European youth did not in a strict sense choose the cynicism which is characteristic of its outlook to-day; rather, it accepted it as the only intellectual safeguard against a civilization the moral foundations of which had proved as infirm as the superstructure that had been built upon them. It is a cynicism of despair, of necessity rather than of choice.

Nor can the cynicism of Europe's youth be called predominantly negative or destructive in character. These qualities must always to some extent enter into the cynical attitude. Yet, contradictory as the terms may seem, the cynicism of foreign youth to-day is fundamentally constructive

rather than destructive. It is the cynicism of those whose trust has been betrayed and who will not again blindly repose that trust, who feel that the institutions of the past have failed so woefully that many of them, wholly incapable of meeting present and future needs, must perish, and that even many of those in which more of good than bad is to be found must be thoroughly reconstructed. And if there is cynicism in youth's attitude toward state and family, toward modern industry and modern nationalism, it is not lacking in the purpose to reform and to improve these institutions-at least in those cases where the reformation and betterment seem worth while.

Nowhere is this constructive cynicism more evident than in youth's attitude toward religion and the church. That attitude varies in detail from seeming indifference and antagonism toward all things even remotely connected with spiritual problems, to the conscious and articulate efforts to remold religious institutions along lines acceptable to its own generation. Yet, despite this range of variation, there is an underlying unity in the attitude of youth. There is almost complete agreement in dissatisfaction with the institutions of religion, and in the firm conviction

that they have been unworthy both of their professions and their opportunities. The constructive element in this cynicism is the determination that something better shall be evolved to take their place.

The dissatisfaction is usually laid at the doors of the World War. Yet the war cannot with justice be held solely responsible for it. Numbers of young people with whom I met, spoke of the war and the spiritual and religious debacle which accompanied it as mere proof of what had been seen and said by the few long before 1914. There can be no question, however, that the war crystallized this dissatisfaction, and that, during and since the war, it has deepened and broadened immeasurably until, instead of being the isolated feeling of a captious minority, it has become a generally accepted axiom of youth's attitude toward the church.


The sweeping indictment of religion and of the institutions of religion, which I have attributed to the youth of Europe, was not made to me at any one time or place. The evidence for it which I have gathered was given me over a period of months under widely differing circumstances and by all types and classes of young people. For the most part, it was given unconsciously and was not offered as evidence at all; but, far from being disqualified on this account, its unconscious quality makes it the more telling. I found it far more illuminating sometimes to sit for an hour in a youth-empty wayside church or city synagogue than to interview a priest or rabbi concerning the attitude of modern youth toward religion.

The details of youth's indictment of the churches vary widely. To attempt to reproduce them all is impossible. Certain factors in the problem stand out clearly, however, either because of the far-reaching nature of their implications or because of their wide-spread and generally accepted character. Perhaps most striking of all was the distinction-forcefully insisted on everywhere-between the churches and religion, the conviction of numbers of young people that it was necessary to prevent the confusion of religious institutions with religious ideals, a conviction which sometimes went so far as to insist that religion's worst enemy was the church from whose defiling hands its true lovers must redeem it.

Admittedly, this distinction between religion and the church is not novel in itself. From the time of Amos and Isaiah in ancient Palestine to that of Roger Williams and Theodore Parker in America, the history of religious advance has been written in terms of this distinction. What is both novel and significant is the fact that not an isolated prophet but great numbers of young people are for the first time making the distinction, and that they are seeking an entirely new way of resolving the differences it implies. Perhaps most significant of all is the fact that the distinction is being made not by a small group of professional critics of religion, nor by those who are by training or temperament indifferent to the whole problem, but by that very type and class of youth from which the church has always in the past received loyalty and support. The indictment of the church which

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