Vaguely Amused

In this excerpt from May This House Be Safe From Tigers, ©1959, Alexander King discusses the defining trait of his native Austria, and how that helped him through a health crisis:

First of all, let me solemnly assure you that I have never in all my life met a single really näive Austrian.  In a truly certified Austrian, even näiveté is just a highly sophisticated form of protective coloration.  And let me add to this, that no matter what they hell they may be doing or saying or even preaching, they are, the lot of them, ever so secretly and quietly smiling to themselves inside.  In church, in school, in jail, in Parliament, and, yes, even on their deathbeds, they can’t ever seem to stop being sort of vaguely amused.

There is a National Characteristic for you, Professor Jung.

Now, remember, I don’t wish to imply that they are chronically flippant or cynical about things; nothing could be further from the truth.  What’s more, I don’t care to go on record that this particular trait of theirs is either a failing or an attribute of any kind.  I only claim that, whatever the hell it it is, it gives the secret smiler a certain undeniable advantage in facing the varying fraudulent manipulations and setbacks provided in endless abundance by an unpredictable fate.

And so, despite the fact that I’d already lived in the United States for over forty-five years, when I was informed by excellent medical authority that my life was in imminent danger the little old boy from Vienna who lives inside me began– automatically, protectively and ever so gently– to smile.

It was a great surprise– and a great help.

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