The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)
The Way We Go — Ins And Out Of Life
Entomologists may be interesting to other entomologists—let us hope so heartily—but who believes that psychologists could be upliftful to other psychologists? Would a duly qualified medical practitioner be pleasantly thrilled by the technical lecture of a chiropractor on the art and crafts of mending or ending patients? If a High-brow is not a bore to a Low-brow he certainly is to another High-brow.
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One of the most painful bores is he or she who is afraid of boring you. Usually this kind of bore is not dull-witted, but the fussy solicitude is disconcerting. Perhaps the narrative is tedious, but the knowledge that you will be suddenly asked, “Am I boring you?” keeps you from lapsing into the detached reverie which you could otherwise have, with an occasional nod as a polite expression of interest.
The ordinary fully-qualified bore fully believes that he is entrancing. He would no more think of saying “Am I boring you?” than “Am I jarring your wisdom teeth?” or “Am I making you feel manslaughterous?” His one desire is to speak, and as long as you let him speak he does not notice whether you are listening or not, so that you are free to let his words bounce from you as hailstones from an iron roof, and slip away into your own thoughts about the bank rate, the balance of trade, or the licensing question.
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If there is a worse bore than the man of one idea or one ideal it is the man of many ideas and many ideals. You can learn something from the man of one idea, if he has intelligence and has used it well in his searches and researches. True, he will give you a hogshead when you only want a glass, but he does bring you something worth while. The man of innumerable notions and commotions of thoughts and thoughtlessness is like a donkey-engine that has run amok or a motor-cycle climbing a hill with the exhaust at full blast. His patter and clatter simply numb you and make your brain feel like bran.
Who or what are the worst bores? It depends on circumstances. If you are feeling seedy yourself, you are excruciatingly bored by the person who delights in chats about troubles of his internal machinery, which you like to ignore or forget. If your banker has just summoned you to his well-furnished office, coldly correct in all appointments, for one of those unrefreshing chats, the gross money-maker's talk about his cuteness in deals, his profits, his new motors, and his new week-end mansion by the sea is villainously poisonous.
Indeed, it would be easier to agree on who are the best inspirers of humanity than on who are the worst bores. A discussion of that question at an afternoon-tea party or any other party would disclose astonishing differences of beliefs and opinions.
What grievous suffering has been caused at public dinners by dreary speakers, with interminable matter-of-factness as flat as their monotonous voices! As a protection against such dreadful boring, would it not be fair to have a regulation compelling all orating or prating banqueteers to stand on one leg (with the other unsupported) during their harangues? The resultant brevity would not be always the soul of wit, but would be usually welcome. The application of a similar rule to sittings of Parliaments (in all countries), conferences, boards, and councils would do more good than harm.
As an alternative, in the case of Parliament, things might be so arranged to enable Mr. Speaker, by working an electric switch, to give mild, medium, or full-length shocks to tedious, irritating iterators.page 11
The old days of Christchurch's Cathedral Square, Wellington's Post Office Square, and other resorts of political, social, or religious enthusiasts in Dunedin and Auckland, have gone, but the streets still have their public speakers. Their words are ground under the wheels of trams and motor-cars, and are mixed up with the horrible clanging and snorting of man's machines. Some pedestrians, giving most of their attention to fretful, threatful traffic, pause for a few moments, and move on; the composition of the listless audience changes from moment to moment. Amid the din one catches such fragments as “emancip” “means of produc,” “wage sla”—odds and ends that slip between the honks, hoots, blasts, and toots of murderous motors—and yet the battered and buffeted voices drone and groan on, hoping that even half a word, or half a phrase, may be better than none in helping humanity onward or backward.
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Multiplicity of interests has its disadvantages from various viewpoints, but it does make for peacefulness among the public. Shrewd rulers of the Roman Empire worked on that principle with their lavish amusements for the populace. The emperors strengthened their personal positions temporarily, but weakened the foundations of the State.
When the public mind is spread thinly over a wide field of interests it is not a good seed-bed for sowers of disaffection. When that mind is rolled up between walls of difficulty and drabness the insurrectionist and the revolutionary have their chance.
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The present feminine fear of fat in the British Empire would seem very silly to a Moor, who likes his women to be palpably plump. If they lack the ideal curves, they feed up until they gain the desired outlines. The men would be pained and horrified by any attempts of their women to slip into slimness, and would regard such elimination of fat as an unholy sacrifice to false gods of beauty (or ugliness). Frenchmen, too—although many of the fashionable Parisiennes are still devoted to the flat slabby styles—have not lost their admiration of enbonpoint.