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The Duty of Cheerfulness (Editorial)

The Epoch
—and—
The Light of Reason

Founded by James Allen, 1902
Editor Mrs. James Allen

Vol. XX. February 1918 No. 2

Perhaps never in our lifetime did the world need our cheerfulness so much as it needs it today. Are we in danger of forgetting that we have a duty to be faithful to,—the duty of cheerfulness? I think maybe we are just now the great excuse that hundreds, perhaps thousands are making for not being cheerful, is the war. Today, men and women, are going about our streets with long faces that seem to have forgotten the way to smile, and with dull apathy manifesting in every movement of their bodies. And if you ask how goes the day with them, you have to hear how sad they are, how heavy hearted, how poorly,—and always it ends up,—"It’s this terrible war, it is getting on my nerves, it is impossible to be bright or well while this terrible war lasts, &c. &c.,"—always the war, the war, the war! Do you know I have a very strong impression that with a great number of folk the war has provided a very convenient pig upon which they can hang their habitual cloak of melancholy. Out upon it! Are we helping matters by our long faces and doleful airs. Will the war end any the sooner because we refuse to be bright and cheerful? Are we helping our brave fighting men by our dismal dirges and eternal whinings? Who are the brightest and most optimistic folk one meets today in our streets or in our homes? The wounded men-officers and men of all ranks. One of the brightest, most hopeful and cheery men it has been my privilege to entertain in my home had lost both his legs, and had to be carried about the house in the arms of a brave unselfish comrade. His cheerfulness and his resignation would put thousands of long-faced, grumbling civilians to shame. The happiest, cheeriest tea parties I have had since August 1914 have been composed of men maimed for life. Yet, in spite of all the cheerfulness, the patience, the optimism, the brave endurance of those dear suffering men, there are men and women who have never endured a single loss or agony personally, making the war an excuse for their dullness, their apathy, their stagnation. If ever there was a time when we needed to be wide awake it is now. If ever we needed to keep abreast of the times, it is now. If ever there was a time when we needed to be bright and cheerful, it is now. Never did the world stand in such a need of alive men and women. Oh, do wake up! The sad and the miserable, the dull and the apathetic, the pessimistic and the stagnant are of no use in the world today. Sometimes people are deluded into the false sense of supposing that at such a time as this to be mournful and doleful is the sign of the prophet and the thinker. Don’t make any mistake. It is far more a sign of stagnation in the mind. The prophet turns his face ever towards the Light. He would not be a prophet otherwise. And always the Light is reflected by him, and that is the reason we know that he is a prophet. The thinker sees deeper than the surface, he is not influenced by what he sees with his eyes or hears with his ears. He knows that the Eternal Purpose cannot fail; he sees ever the Divine Ideal evolving out of the chaos and confusion of existing conditions. He does not think and act as if God were dead and the world had become the sporting ground of the devil. Depend upon it the prophet and the thinker are not known by their sad long faces and long drawn out sighs. And here is another thing that I have remarked, that the bravest, brightest, and strongest hearted men and women in the world today are the fathers and mothers who have given their sons to the country, and who will never see them again. How they put some of the croaking complaining, sad-faced miserable men and women to shame who have never given one they love to save their country. It seems to me it is a shame to be sad and miserable today. Nay, it is more than a shame, a sin. Poor indeed has been our hold on the Eternal Verities if our confidence can be shaken by today’s turmoil and strife. Blurred and indistinct indeed has been our vision of The Good if we think that the apparent forces of evil can conquer and overthrow It.

"Then would you have us hilarious and light-hearted at such a time"? someone may ask. And I for answer would ask you to remember that to be hilarious is one thing, to be bright and cheerful is quite another,—to be light-hearted is one thing, to be strong-hearted is another. Also remember that seriousness is not incompatible with cheerfulness, and to be brave, and strong and optimistic in spirit is to be both helpful, inspiring, and encouraging; it is to lift up and hearten all with whom we come in contact. We need not disgust by foolish frivolity, neither need we depress by an unwholesome and deadening misery.

Some of us can do very little to win the war. But have we ever thought that we might help by being cheerful. Have we ever considered how our lack of brightness, our long faces, our miserable suggestions may be prolonging the suffering and the pain? It is our duty to God and to our brother to be cheerful. Power dwells with cheerfulness, the power to bless dwells with brightness, the uplifting and healing grace is with him, and with her, of a cheerful and radiating countenance.

Let us then by our cheerfulness and courage, our happiness and hope, our optimism and faith in the triumph of principle, help God in the evolution of the world. For God’s sake if you must be sad and miserable, dull and full of fears, hide it, hide it as deeply as you can from the people, and smile, yes, smile even if your heart is aching and your soul is heavy. It seems to me that our greatest duty today is the duty we owe to God and to our fellows to be cheerful.

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Lily L. Allen

  • Born on December 30th, 1867 at Burrishoole, Eire
  • Wife of author James Allen
  • Wrote many books of her own
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