Inc Women's Foundation for Health.

A hand book on positive health online

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Some people have an exaggerated humility about music, pro-
testing that they have not sufficient culture to appreciate it. Even
the most primitive savage is not shut out from the enjoyment of
music. It seems odd, therefore, that it should be so often regarded
as the pastime of "high-brows" and not as the recreation of ordi-
nary people. A profound but simple need of human nature, the
love of music is sufficiently present in all of us as it was in our
savage forebears to be capable of positive development and per-
sonal expression.


Like music, dancing is an instinctive method of expression.
The desire to recreate music into bodily movement is universal.
At a concert you would often like to tap your foot and mu$t
forcibly restrain yourself from doing so. Folk rhythms, hymns
and popular music, with their pendulum-like movement, are most
enjoyed by the untrained listener, because he apprehends the sim-
ple rhythm with his muscles. We wish to make a melody a part
of ourselves, and in dancing we seem to do this. The joy of
sound becomes transmuted without effort into the energy of
motion, and the joy of motion thus created is the source of new
energy for the individual.

Among primitive tribes, the dance is an integral part of
religion and social custom. War dances, seasonal dances, ritual
dances, folk dances of various kinds, tell the story of a people's
work and play. These dances dramatize tribal and social rela-
tionships, and represent a composite form of activity in which
color, music, drama, all combine in one expressive, satisfying art.

In this broad sense, dancing today has become a lost art.
The technic of modern dancing, like the mode of women's dress,
has been subjected to the rule of fashion which distorts as well
as beautifies. Yet in spite of graceless and even vulgar features,
It remains a channel open to everybody for the enjoyment of
companionship, and as such plays the same part in life as a dinner
party with congenial friends, around a beautifully set table, with

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shaded lights, carefully prepared food and friendly conversation.
It needs the aid of art and intelligence to realize its many values.
Dancing is a normal expression, not to be decried or put down,
but to be developed with the same regard for beauty and grace
as are the kindred arts which were once a part of it — music,
sculpture, poetry and the drama.

Practically everybody has the capacity for self-expression
through dancing. In making plans for recreation, the desire for
rhythmic, graceful movement should be taken into consideration.
Regardless of pounds, years or other conventional handicaps,
dancing should be cultivated. Many leaders of aesthetic and
interpretative dancing nowadays appreciate its relation to health ;
and there are also some who appreciate the expression of maturity
of feeling as well as mere youthfulness of spirit. Classes in folk-
dancing have recently become more general and more accessible
for everybody. Rh3rthmic exercises to the music of a victrola
may be taken in the privacy of one's own room. Given the per-
sonal desire, and the belief that dancing is not merely a safety
valve for adolescent energy, we shall begin to find opportunities
for expressive exercise and congenial dances for everybody.


Drama is the portrayal of all phases of human life. Through-
out history it has been successfully used to represent the develop-
ment of individual character, of work, of government, of the
arts ; "to hold the mirror up to Nature." As a creative activity,
drama takes on many forms, from the very simplest to the most
complicated. The child who hears the story of "The Three
Bears" and then gets down on all-fours saying, "Let's play bear !"
is a dramatist in his own fashion. From this to the portrayal of
the whole gamut of human emotions on the professional stage
may seem to be a far cry, but there is the same imitative impulse
expressed in both. The dramatization of any event, experience
or idea intensifies it a thousandfold in the minds of the beholders.
As in dancing, the desire to create, expressed through the drama,
is neither moral nor immoral, but the method of interpretation
may make it so.

We are accustomed to think of plays as moral or immoral,
according to their content. It is true that the story of the play,
its characters and its ideals, may have an important influence on
the lives of individuals. Realizing this, we usually judge the
characters in the drama as if they were actual people, approving
or disapproving in the light of our personal moral standards.
Thus we try to reinforce our own best ideals and improve our
own habits of conduct. But there is another way of looking at
the characters in the play. Here is a chance to broaden our
sympathies and to learn to understand people who are different

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from ourselves, for a good dramatist will always help us to do
lething that must be learned in the interest of
ility. The one who has the best command of her
will be most tolerant of personality in others,
aside from their content, plays, moving pictures,
t stories may have a wholesome or unwholesome
are used wholly as food for phantasy which finds
in action, they lead to a type of sentimentalism
further mental or physical health. A romantic
life which prevents us from facing ourselves as
ironment as it is and may be, and our possibili-
Uenge us, should not be fostered by our recrea-
eams are a valuable part of life, but they should
realization in some form of effective activity.
Dlay our parts on the world's stage not as ama-
Dfessionals. The tendency of the amateur is to
stage when he is speaking, and get outside of his
when he is not speaking. The able professional
art from the time he enters until his exit. Living
stage of life requires that we play it through, at
id, in public and in private, in work and play,
and in their realization.


The art of living is the art of health, and both we have defined
as wholeness of life. To achieve this wholeness, recreation is
indispensable. It means the consistent and persistent building up
of contrast and variety in life to counteract the monotony which
seems to be almost inseparable from all work, and is present to a
dangerous degree in most modern occupations. The development
of business and industry today results in more and more jobs
that are purely repetitive, and women even more than men are
enlisted for this type of work. We have hosts of unhappy peo-
ple of all ages in the treadmill of civilization, complaining of their
conditions and failing to make the psychological adjustments
required by the tremendous economic changes. We know that
the treadmill conditions must be changed if humanity is to mea-
sure up to its human possibilities. What too few of us admit
is that the individual's problem of personal adjustment cannot
wait until the social environment has been made better and more
human. Personal health and happiness must be striven for day
by day, and through every channel of work and play which is
open to us ; we must make the most of our opportunities instead
of making the most of our obstacles.

In order to relate our recreation to the art of living, we
should not take it like a dose of medicine, doing things because
they are "good for us" or because "the doctor told us to." How-

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ever, it is better to begin in this dutiful spirit rather than not
begin at all. As William James has taught us in his psychology,
sometimes the gestures of enjoyment will help to evolve the
spirit. The first thing is to begin, somewhere and anyhow.
Develop an interest or enthusiasm, whatever it may be. Then,
having made the start, learn to combine several creative interests
in turning out a pleasurable product. Through the ciunulative
result of recreation habits, a solid foundation will be built which
will make further creative activities less difficult.

It is not well to give too much attention to the forced and
rapid development of one particular type of expression, while
neglecting all others. A variety oT expression is the means of
full development, meeting equally the claims of body, mind and
spirit. The necessary equipment does not require great imagina-
tion, money or beauty ; indeed, it does not require anything which
we absolutely cannot get. It requires only the simple available
things and the will to discover in them the sources of personal

The art of living is not the restricted sphere of the gifted few,
but the joyous inspiration of every one who perceives that a well-
balanced and out-going personality is not simply the gift of a
merciful Providence, but can be steadily achieved by building it
as well as by desiring it. It is true that the technic for which
we are searching is an elusive thing, but life — ^life pulsating and
joyous — is waiting for those who have learned the art of living.
Each generation does its share when it lives life abundantly and
so enriches the gift which it enjoys and passes on.


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Online LibraryInc Women's Foundation for HealthA hand book on positive health → online text (page 17 of 17)