There are marvellous joys in friendship. This is easily understood if we notice that joy is contagious. If my presence gives joy to a friend, the sight of this joy is enough to make me feel joy in turn; so the joy that each person gives is returned; at the same time the treasures of joy are liberated and both can say to themselves: “There was a happiness within me with which I was doing nothing.”
The source of joy is within, I agree; and nothing is sadder than to see people discontented with themselves and with everything, who tickle each other to make themselves laugh. But it also has to be said that a person who is content, if he or she is alone, soon forgets their contentment; all their joy soon falls asleep, followed by a kind of stupidity or almost insensitivity. The feeling inside needs movement outside. If a tyrant imprisoned me to teach me to respect his power, my rule for health would be to laugh alone every day; I would exercise my joy as I would exercise my legs.
Here is a bundle of dry branches. They seem as lifeless as the earth; if you leave them there, they will become earth. But they contain a hidden heat which they have drawn from the sun. Bring a tiny flame close to them and you will soon have a crackling blaze. A rattle of the door was all that was needed to wake the prisoner.
This is how a kind of kick-start is needed to awaken joy. When a small child laughs for the first time, his laugh doesn’t express anything; he didn’t laugh because he is happy; I’d say rather that he is happy because he’s laughing; it’s a pleasure for him to laugh, as it is to eat; but first he has to eat. This is true not only for laughter; we also need words to know that we are thinking. As soon as we are alone we cannot be ourselves. The half-wit moralists say that to love is to forget oneself; too simple a view; the more we come out of ourselves, the more we are ourselves; and the more we feel ourselves alive. Don’t let your wood rot in your cellar.
Decembre 27th, 1907
Traduction par Michel Petheram, seul détenteur des droits sur le texte anglais. / English translation copyright © Michel Petheram