Friday, November 24, 2017

'A State Between Gaiety and Unconcern'

Holidays are tests we pass or not. Only the congenitally congenial, a strange race, don’t have to think about it. Expectations are high. The right food, perfectly timed. The proper mix of guests and their meetly calibrated alcohol intakes. Kingsley Amis wisely observed that “hilarity and drink are connected in a profoundly human, peculiarly intimate way,” which is true even for teetotalers. Be warned: a micron of misstep and you have a donnybrook or snoozefest on your hands. Sports, televised or otherwise, are forbidden in my house, so that’s no concern. Dolor, of course, threatens the afternoon: Netflix to the rescue. We hang the Christmas lights on the front of the house. The day gets easier as I shed expectations and remember it’s not about me. Sage holiday advice from Dr. Johnson on this date, Nov. 24, in 1750:

“Good-humour may be defined a habit of being pleased; a constant and perennial softness of manner, easiness of approach, and suavity of disposition; like that which every man perceives in himself, when the first transports of new felicity have subsided, and his thoughts are only kept in motion by a slow succession of soft impulses. Good-humour is a state between gaiety and unconcern; the act or emanation of a mind at leisure to regard the gratification of another.”

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