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William E. Hocking, Harvard philosopher, believes that Americans are not grave enough. The Times quotes him as saying: -- "If the Puritans overweighed the, note of gravity, we are at least as prone to overdo the stimulation of nonchalance. And the habit of treating all things as if they were equally light to our abundant powers and emotional buoyancy is apt to leave us emotionally bankrupt in the presence of the objectively deeper passes of experience."
Professor Hocking did not say at which period in our history we became a gay instead of a solemn people. That would be interesting to know. But it is hard to see why Professor Hocking thinks the change was for the worse. The nations with the greatest capacity for nonchalance are the ones best off today.
The Germans have long been known as the most serious people on earth. Their national "profundity" is as famous as the muddy and tortuous way most of them have of expressing themselves in their own language. That state of mind has produced many great things in music, philosophy and literature, but it has put Germany in a sad condition today. A more frivolous people never would have accepted the preposterous body of ideas which Dr. Rosenberg has assembled and Hitler stands on. The American nonchalance which Professor Hocking deplores is one thing that keeps some long-faced folly like the Nazi movement from seizing this country.
Of course the Professor may have been referring to the depressing stabs Americans make at actual gayety--that is, when they are working so hard to have a good time. Americans at play are generally a gloomy sight, indeed. A Rotary lunch-con, an American Legion convention or Coney Island is enough to dismay any philosopher, and the Puritans must have looked a great deal better while taking the one worldly pleasure they were not ashamed of--to wit, getting quietly and augustly fuddled on rum and ale.
The Puritans probably had a better time than the Rotarians at that. The Pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right which most of our free citizens exert in an inept and usually futile fashion, and if we may assume Professor Hocking wrote his speech after a visit to a night club it is easy enough to get the point of his remarks. --N. Y. World-Telegram
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