At the coffee shop today Bob wanted to read another Samuel Johnson essay in the Rambler. I decided that Johnson was the original blogger, claiming as his motto for writing these various essays as: “Sworn to no master’s arbitrary sway, I range where e’er occasion points the way. (from Horace’s Epistles which I think were written in Latin so I can’t be more specific).” Of course, unlike some of us bloggers, Johnson was so famous that he had a “brand” which made everyone want to follow his weekly ramblings. And his musings were so brilliant, ahem, unlike some bloggers, that the reader could spend time discussing every sentence.
For instance in Rambler 72, “Sir, Those who exalt themselves into the chair of instruction without inquiring whether any will submit to their authority…”strikes a chord with me. I’m reminded of the Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, when the aspiring novelist meets his fiancée’s former professor, he, who knew everything about art, everything about wine, he, the resident expert on everything. We all know people who “have to know.” Unlike the character in the film, these people don’t amuse me; in real life they annoy me and get under my skin. I wish I could find a softness towards them because they , as Johnson said, “ have not sufficiently considered how much of human life passes in little incidents, cursory conversations, slight business in casual amusements, and therefore they have endeavored only to inculcate the more awful virtues…and which, though they (the little incidents) produce no single acts of heroism,…are every moment exerting their influence upon us and make the draft of life sweet or bitter by imperceptible installations…”
Johnson goes on to say that such authorities respond to “hard impulses” rather than the softness of good humor and are unable to celebrate the gratification of others, the successes of others.
The gratification of another’s success is one of the most joyous sensations. When I’ve experienced it, I feel free and expansive; I’m the best I can be.
I’m reminded of the two writing groups that I lead, the generosity of spirit, the support, candor, the sharing. Successes in either group result in celebration and gratification, even inspiration, spurring everyone on to hope and faith in their own talent. And there is such good humor, spilling all around the circle on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings. Good humor is one of our softer impulses, I think, unlike the hard edge of a Rush Limbaugh. Soft impulses allow reason to rule and openness to other points of view. So let’s drink a cup of spiced Latté to humor and our gentler impulses.