Hydrogen Jukebox Press
An Online Edition
edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers
Thursday, April 30, 1914
The blind negro who cries "Evening News" at the corner by the Stone church was slowly making his dark way up Georgia avenue in midmorning. In passing the heaps of sand, tiling and gravel piled in the street before the new building at the corner of Vine, he became confused; his walking-stick could no longer tell his feet the path; and he came to a stop, thrusting about him uncertainly, searching with the tip of the stick for information about his surroundings. One of the workmen, seeing his difficulty, stepped forward with a reassuring word; and taking the blind man by the arm, guided him safely past the obstacles and the rush of the automobiles around the corner, into the clear sidewalk above. Then as he turned back to his work on the building he began to laugh aloud, at nothing in particular, dividing his black face in half with a gleam of ivories.
The doves on the rim of the fountain saw and wondered.
"What in the world is that negro laughing about?" asked the Gray Pigeon.
"They say," answered the White Sister, "that laughter is one of the things that set men apart from the animals. Maybe if he could not laugh he would still be a creature of the jungle."
"He might cry," suggested the Gray.
"It is better for him to laugh. When in doubt, smile--if you are human. Laughter has a good effect on his own health and on that of every one about him. People laugh together and it is good for them; they creep off alone to weep."
The Fireman made a comment in his deeper voice which only his guests hear. "Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and the world laughs at you."
"I suppose that is because they know instinctively that crying is a dangerous habit," said the White Pigeon. "I have often see[n] a woman use up in ten minutes sobbing more mental and bodily energy than would be required in a whole day's work. This is a form of extravagance no one should wish to share."
"Yet," said the Gray Pigeon, "for all he has the gift of laughter, man is a sad creature by habit, is he not? Why is it? Why should he who ought by his great intelligence to be the happiest mortal part of creation wear a countenance expressing chiefly weariness or pain? Why are only young faces happy? Sometimes an old face is seen whose lines are all imprints of humor and tenderness, and the crowfeet of countless smiles. But these, you know, are exceptions; most elderly faces have the look of the beaten, the sick, the sorrowful. Why?"
"Man's inhumanity to man" was the explanation mournfully given by the White Pigeon.
"Not altogether," said the Fireman. "Most human unhappiness is due to mistakes on the part of somebody, either the present sufferers or their forbears more or less remote. Partly by historical errors--for instance, the wars of the centuries, which slay the strong and leave the feeble and unfit; partly by cross-bred diseases, among which I include drunkenness, poverty and kindred evils; partly by present-day violations of the laws of nature, such as crowding into buildings, and overfeeding at one end of the social scale and underfeeding at the other, and overstrain everywhere--and that most gratuitous errors, the continual chase after pleasure which destroys the very capacity for true happiness.
"The science of human happiness ought to be taught in all schools; nothing else is so well worth teaching. But many people never, from cradle to grave, suspect that there is such a thing.
"Man can be happy, we know. Sometimes a nature is found to be like a many-stringed harp exquisitely in tune; but how rarely such music is heard amid the profane racket of the world! The matchless laughter of negroes and children--the expression of perfectly simply delight echoing from the golden remote youth of the world--is oftenest heard, as now, in the uplift of spirits following an act of kindness.
"But at bottom of all the race's strange joy and stranger anguish is the most precious of all gifts--the capacity for intense feeling. Tears, no less than laughter, are the gift of the gods to men."