Collecting One's Wits


A ten-minute organ recital in the Harvard Chapel every morning before the ordeal of final examinations to quiet jangled nerves is not such a fanciful idea as it may sound to skeptical hard heads.

Whether Dr. Davidson, the choirmaster, who has just originated this custom, took his cue from the healers of nervous disorders, it is quite in accord with principles which they know and apply -- sometimes with music itself. In war hospitals it was found that quiet music had a most beneficial effect on certain cases of shell-shock, especially when someone could be found to perform it who understood how to make it the vehicle of a personal influence of quietude.

The principle applied is the very simple one, too little known, that a few moments of complete relaxation before a period of sustained effort will coordinate the faculties and bring them into focus. This little expedient of "collecting one's wits" by dispersing them altogether for a few moments is practiced by such diverse people as baseball players, musicians, public speakers, actors, and even statesmen.

In a state of flustered nerves one can do little or nothing. The idea, first of all, is to get calm. Then the faculties can begin to work in an orderly fashion. This relaxation can be induced, of course, without music, simply by sitting still and letting the mind drift. But music is a powerful agent of relaxation, because it so operates on us without our being conscious of the process.

It is not suggested that a man can loaf half a year or half a lifetime, then, after a few minutes of musical massage, jump in and accomplish feats to astonish the natives. But when the preliminary drill has been faithfully performed, such a period of relaxation before the final effort, be it examination, art or business, does marvelously heighten the powers of concentrated effort. --Boston Globe.