Constant bright cheerfulness is strange to an Englishman.
English people abroad, English men especially, can often seem unfriendly because we don’t talk with anyone and everyone we meet. An Englishman will hardly ever engage a stranger in conversation, and if we do it will merely be to exchange a couple of words about the weather. More often than not English men are of very few words, seldom speaking unless we think we have something important or interesting to say.
This taciturn manner goes back a long, long way to when it was considered impolite to speak to someone unless you had been properly introduced.
When out on my regular solitary meditative walks I will often pass by people I have seen many times before, and mostly we will merely exchange a nod, or one or two words.
This isn’t because we are unhappy, morose, or impolite, it’s just that the English are men of few words.
In fact, most English men are content, happy, settled, and confident in body mind and spirit.
To be born an Englishman is to win first prize in the lottery of life. – Rudyard Kipling
England and America are not just two great nation’s separated by a common language, we are also separated by utterly different attitudes, cultures, manners, mores, and standards.
The Greatest Gift You Can Give the World is a Healthy You.
Sometime around the first century AD, Roman poet Juvenal, (Decimus lunius luvenalis), wrote this;
you should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body
ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death
and deems length of days the least of nature’s gifts
that can endure any kind of toil
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labours of Hercules
better than the loves and banquets and downy cushions of sloth
what I commend to you, you can give to yourself
for assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.
Except Juvenal wrote it in Latin, and he wrote Sardanapalus, not sloth. It actually rhymes much better in Latin. This is from where we get the phrase ~ mens sana in corpore sano ~ a sound mind in a sound body.
To me, this reads a lot like Kipling, who was also very adept at giving good advice to young men; for example in his seminal poem IF Kipling explains what it takes to be a Man. Sir Henry Newbolt with Vitai Lampada, gave a more inspirational lead. But for hard advice the Maxims to Guide a Young Man, which appeared in the 1850’s maybe says it all. After a long career in banking, my personal advice to a young man echoes Shakespeare’s from Hamlet; Neither a borrower nor a lender be…
Even two thousand years later Juvenal’s advice is sound. He’s telling us not to lay about eating, drinking, having sex, (all things that the ancient Romans excelled at), but instead live an energetic life of courage, self-discipline, and virtue. Every great teacher before and since, including Jesus Christ and the Buddha, says more or less the same things. The Noble Eightfold Path could have come straight from Juvenal.
Life is difficult and painful. The way to freedom from pain lies in courage, hard work, and self-discipline. And by the way, don’t get cynical, envious, impatient, apathetic, or angry along the way ~ these negative emotions will not serve you well.
Neither in a man nor a woman is negativity a pretty sight
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can dream ~ and not make dreams your master
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And ~ which is more ~ you will be a man.
from Rudyard Kipling