"Cheerfulness as a Life Power"
by Orison Swett Marden
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1899. The soul-consuming and friction-wearing tendency of this hurrying, grasping, competing age is the excuse for this little book. Cheerfulness has a wonderful lubricating power. What is needed is a habit of cheerfulness, to enjoy every day as we go along; not to fret and stew all the week, and then expect to make up for it Sunday or on some holiday. This book leads the reader to look on the sunny side of things, and to take a little time every day to speak pleasant words.
WHAT VANDERBILT PAID FOR TWELVE LAUGHS
William K. Vanderbilt, when he last visited Constantinople, one day invited Coquelin the elder, so celebrated for his powers as a mimic, who happened to be in the city at the time, to give a private recital on board his yacht, lying in the Bosphorus. Coquelin spoke three of his monologues. A few days afterwards Coquelin received the following memorandum from the millionaire:—
"You have brought tears to our eyes and laughter to our hearts. Since all philosophers are agreed that laughing is preferable to weeping, your account with me stands thus:—
"Kindly acknowledge receipt of enclosed check."
"I find nonsense singularly refreshing," said Talleyrand. There is good philosophy in the saying, "Laugh and grow fat." If everybody knew the power of laughter as a health tonic and life prolonger the tinge of sadness which now clouds the American face would largely disappear, and many physicians would find their occupation gone.
The power of laughter was given us to serve a wise purpose in our economy. It is Nature's device for exercising the internal organs and giving us pleasure at the same time.
Laughter begins in the lungs and diaphragm, setting the liver, stomach, and other internal organs into a quick, jelly-like vibration, which gives a pleasant sensation and exercise, almost equal to that of horseback riding. During digestion, the movements of the stomach are similar to churning. Every time you take a full breath, or when you cachinnate well, the diaphragm descends and gives the stomach an extra squeeze and shakes it. Frequent laughing sets the stomach to dancing, hurrying up the digestive process. The heart beats faster, and sends the blood bounding through the body. "There is not," says Dr. Green, "one remotest corner or little inlet of the minute blood-vessels of the human body that does not feel some wavelet from the convulsions occasioned by a good hearty laugh." In medical terms, it stimulates the vasomotor centers, and the spasmodic contraction of the blood-vessels causes the blood to flow quickly. Laughter accelerates the respiration, and gives warmth and glow to the whole system. It brightens the eye, increases the perspiration, expands the chest, forces the poisoned air from the least-used lung cells, and tends to restore that exquisite poise or balance which we call health, which results from the harmonious action of all the functions of the body. This delicate poise, which may be destroyed by a sleepless night, a piece of bad news, by grief or anxiety, is often wholly restored by a good hearty laugh.
There is, therefore, sound sense in the caption,—"Cheerfulness as a Life Power,"—relating as it does to the physical life, as well as the mental and moral; and what we may call
THE LAUGH CURE
is based upon principles recognized as sound by the medical profession—so literally true is the Hebrew proverb that "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
"Mirth is God's medicine," said Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes; "everybody ought to bathe in it. Grim care, moroseness, anxiety,—all the rust of life,—ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth." Elsewhere he says: "If you are making choice of a physician be sure you get one with a cheerful and serene countenance."
Is not a jolly physician of greater service than his pills? Dr. Marshall Hall frequently prescribed "cheerfulness" for his patients, saying that it is better than anything to be obtained at the apothecary's.
In Western New York, Dr. Burdick was known as the "Laughing Doctor." He always presented the happiest kind of a face; and his good humor was contagious. He dealt sparingly in drugs, yet was very successful.
The London "Lancet," the most eminent medical journal in the world, gives the following scientific testimony to the value of jovialty:—
"This power of 'good spirits' is a matter of high moment to the sick and weakly. To the former, it may mean the ability to survive; to the latter, the possibility of outliving, or living in spite of, a disease. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance to cultivate the highest and most buoyant frame of mind which the conditions will admit. The same energy which takes the form of mental activity is vital to the work of the organism. Mental influences affect the system; and a joyous spirit not only relieves pain, but increases the momentum of life in the body."
Dr. Ray, superintendent of Butler Hospital for the Insane, says in one of his reports, "A hearty laugh is more desirable for mental health than any exercise of the reasoning faculties."
Grief, anxiety, and fear are great enemies of human life. A depressed, sour, melancholy soul, a life which has ceased to believe in its own sacredness, its own power, its own mission, a life which sinks into querulous egotism or vegetating aimlessness, has become crippled and useless. We should fight against every influence which tends to depress the mind, as we would against a temptation to crime. It is undoubtedly true that, as a rule, the mind has power to lengthen the period of youthful and mature strength and beauty, preserving and renewing physical life by a stalwart mental health.
I read the other day of a man in a neighboring city who was given up to die; his relatives were sent for, and they watched at his bedside. But an old acquaintance, who called to see him, assured him smilingly that he was all right and would soon be well. He talked in such a strain that the sick man was forced to laugh; and the effort so roused his system that he rallied, and he was soon well again.
Was it not Shakespeare who said that a light heart lives long?
The San Francisco "Argonaut" says that a woman in Milpites, a victim of almost crushing sorrow, despondency, indigestion, insomnia, and kindred ills, determined to throw off the gloom which was making life so heavy a burden to her, and established a rule that she would laugh at least three times a day, whether occasion was presented or not; so she trained herself to laugh heartily at the least provocation, and would retire to her room and make merry by herself. She was soon in excellent health and buoyant spirits; her home became a sunny, cheerful abode.
It was said, by one who knew this woman well, and who wrote an account of the case for a popular magazine, that at first her husband and children were amused at her, and while they respected her determination because of the griefs she bore, they did not enter into the spirit of the plan. "But after awhile," said this woman to me, with a smile, only yesterday, "the funny part of the idea struck my husband, and he began to laugh every time we spoke of it. And when he came home, he would ask me if I had had my 'regular laughs;' and he would laugh when he asked the question, and again when I answered it. My children, then very young, thought 'mamma's notion very queer,' but they laughed at it just the same. Gradually, my children told other children, and they told their parents. My husband spoke of it to our friends, and I rarely met one of them but he or she would laugh and ask me, 'How many of your laughs have you had today?' Naturally, they laughed when they asked, and of course that set me laughing. When I formed this apparently strange habit I was weighed down with sorrow, and my rule simply lifted me out of it. I had suffered the most acute indigestion; for years I have not known what it is. Headaches were a daily dread; for over six years I have not had a single pain in the head. My home seems different to me, and I feel a thousand times more interest in its work. My husband is a changed man. My children are called 'the girls who are always laughing,' and, altogether, my rule has proved an inspiration which has worked wonders."
The queen of fashion, however, says that we must never laugh out loud; but since the same tyrannical mistress kills people by corsets, indulges in cosmetics, and is out all night at dancing parties, and in China pinches up the women's feet, I place much less confidence in her views upon the laugh cure for human woes. Yet in all civilized countries it is a fundamental principle of refined manners not to be ill-timed and unreasonably noisy and boisterous in mirth. One who is wise will never violate the proprieties of well-bred people.
"Yet," says a wholesome writer upon health, "we should do something more than to simply cultivate a cheerful, hopeful spirit,—we should cultivate a spirit of mirthfulness that is not only easily pleased and smiling, but that indulges in hearty, hilarious laughter; and if this faculty is not well marked in our organization we should cultivate it, being well assured that hearty, body-shaking laughter will do us good."
Ordinary good looks depend on one's sense of humor,—"a merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance." Joyfulness keeps the heart and face young. A good laugh makes us better friends with ourselves and everybody around us, and puts us into closer touch with what is best and brightest in our lot in life.
the story. The
sympathetic nerves are closely
allied; and when one set carries bad news to the head, the nerves
reaching the stomach are affected, indigestion comes on, and one's
countenance becomes doleful. Laugh when you can; it is..
A CHEAP MEDICINE.
Merriment is a philosophy not well understood. The eminent surgeon Chavasse says that we ought to begin with the babies and train children to habits of mirth:—
"Encourage your child to be merry and laugh aloud; a good hearty laugh expands the chest and makes the blood bound merrily along. Commend me to a good laugh,—not to a little snickering laugh, but to one that will sound right through the house. It will not only do your child good, but will be a benefit to all who hear, and be an important means of driving the blues away from a dwelling. Merriment is very catching, and spreads in a remarkable manner, few being able to resist its contagion. A hearty laugh is delightful harmony; indeed, it is the best of all music." "Children without hilarity," says an eminent author, "will never amount to much. Trees without blossoms will never bear fruit."
Hufeland, physician to the King of Prussia, commends the ancient custom of jesters at the king's table, whose quips and cranks would keep the company in a roar.
Did not Lycurgus set up the god of laughter in the Spartan eating-halls? There is no table sauce like laughter at meals. It is the great enemy of dyspepsia.
How wise are the words of the acute Chamfort, that the most completely lost of all days is the one in which we have not laughed!
"A crown, for making the king laugh," was one of the items of expense which the historian Hume found in a manuscript of King Edward II.
"It is a good thing to laugh, at any rate," said Dryden, the poet, "and if a straw can tickle a man, it is an instrument of happiness."
"I live," said Laurence Sterne, one of the greatest of English humorists, "in a constant endeavor to fence against the infirmities of ill health and other evils by mirth; I am persuaded that, every time a man smiles,—but much more so when he laughs,—it adds something to his fragment of life."
"Give me an honest laugher," said Sir Walter Scott, and he was himself one of the happiest men in the world, with a kind word and pleasant smile for every one, and everybody loved him.
"How much lies in laughter!" exclaimed the critic Carlyle. "It is the cipher-key wherewith we decipher the whole man. Some men wear an everlasting barren simper; in the smile of others lies the cold glitter, as of ice; the fewest are able to laugh what can be called laughing, but only sniff and titter and snicker from the throat outward, or at least produce some whiffing, husky cachinnation, as if they were laughing through wool. Of none such comes good."
"The power to laugh, to cease work and begin to frolic and make merry in forgetfulness of all the conflict of life," says Campbell Morgan, "is a divine bestowment upon man."
Happy, then, is the man, who may well laugh to himself over his good luck, who can answer the old question, "How old are you?" by Sambo's reply:—
the years, sah,
I'se twenty-five; but if you goes
by the fun I's 'ad, I guess I's a hundred.
THE CURE FOR AMERICANITIS
Prince Wolkonsky, during a visit to this country, declared that "Business is the alpha and omega of American life. There is no pleasure, no joy, no satisfaction. There is no standard except that of profit. There is no other country where they speak of a man as worth so many dollars. In other countries they live to enjoy life; here they exist for business." A Boston merchant corroborated this statement by saying he was anxious all day about making money, and worried all night for fear he should lose what he had made.
"In the United States," a distinguished traveler once said, "there is everywhere comfort, but no joy. The ambition of getting more and fretting over what is lost absorb life."
"Every man we meet looks as if he'd gone out to borrow trouble, with plenty of it on hand," said a French lady, upon arriving in New York.
"The Americans are the best-fed, the best-clad, and the best-housed people in the world," says another witness, "but they are the most anxious; they hug possible calamity to their breasts."
"I question if care and doubt ever wrote their names so legibly on the faces of any other population," says Emerson; "old age begins in the nursery."
How quickly we Americans exhaust life! With what panting haste we pursue everything! Every man you meet seems to be late for an appointment. Hurry is stamped in the wrinkles of the national face. We are men of action; we go faster and faster as the years go by, speeding our machinery to the utmost. Bent forms, prematurely gray hair, restlessness and discontent, are characteristic of our age and people. We earn our bread, but cannot digest it; and our over-stimulated nerves soon become irritated, and touchiness follows,—so fatal to a business man, and so annoying in society.
"It is not work that kills men," says Beecher; "it is worry. Work is healthy; you can hardly put more on a man than he can bear. But worry is rust upon the blade. It is not movement that destroys the machinery, but friction."
It is not so much the great sorrows, the great burdens, the great hardships, the great calamities, that cloud over the sunshine of life, as the little petty vexations, insignificant anxieties and fear, the little daily dyings, which render our lives unhappy, and destroy our mental elasticity, without advancing our life-work one inch. "Anxiety never yet bridged any chasm."
"What," asks Dr. George W. Jacoby, in an "Evening Post" interview, "is the ultimate physical effect of worry? Why, the same as that of a fatal bullet-wound or sword-thrust. Worry kills as surely, though not so quickly, as ever gun or dagger did, and more people have died in the last century from sheer worry than have been killed in battle."
Dr. Jacoby is one of the foremost of American brain doctors. "The investigations of the neurologists," he says, "have laid bare no secret of Nature in recent years more startling and interesting than the discovery that worry kills." This is the final, up-to-date word. "Not only is it known," resumes the great neurologist, counting off his words, as it were, on his finger-tips, "that worry kills, but the most minute details of its murderous methods are familiar to modern scientists. It is a common belief of those who have made a special study of the science of brain diseases that hundreds of deaths attributed to other causes each year are due simply to worry. In plain, untechnical language, worry works its irreparable injury through certain cells of the brain life. The insidious inroads upon the system can be best likened to the constant falling of drops of water in one spot. In the brain it is the insistent, never-lost idea, the single, constant thought, centered upon one subject, which in the course of time destroys the brain cells. The healthy brain can cope with occasional worry; it is the iteration and reiteration of disquieting thoughts which the cells of the brain cannot successfully combat.
"The mechanical effect of worry is much the same as if the skull were laid bare and the brain exposed to the action of a little hammer beating continually upon it day after day, until the membranes are disintegrated and the normal functions disabled. The maddening thought that will not be downed, the haunting, ever-present idea that is not or cannot be banished by a supreme effort of the will, is the theoretical hammer which diminishes the vitality of the sensitive nerve organisms, the minuteness of which makes them visible to the eye only under a powerful microscope. The 'worry,' the thought, the single idea grows upon one as time goes on, until the worry victim cannot throw it off. Through this, one set or area of cells is affected. The cells are intimately connected, joined together by little fibres, and they in turn are in close relationship with the cells of the other parts of the brain.
"Worry is itself a species of monomania. No mental attitude is more disastrous to personal achievement, personal happiness, and personal usefulness in the world, than worry and its twin brother, despondency. The remedy for the evil lies in training the will to cast off cares and seek a change of occupation, when the first warning is sounded by Nature in intellectual lassitude. Relaxation is the certain foe of worry, and 'don't fret' one of the healthiest of maxims."
In a life of constant worrying, we are as much behind the times as if we were to go back to use the first steam engines that wasted ninety per cent. of the energy of the coal, instead of having an electric dynamo that utilizes ninety percent. of the power. Some people waste a large percentage of their energy in fretting and stewing, in useless anxiety, in scolding, in complaining about the weather and the perversity of inanimate things. Others convert nearly all of their energy into power and moral sunshine. He who has learned the true art of living will not waste his energies in friction, which accomplishes nothing, but merely grinds out the machinery of life.
It must be relegated to the debating societies to determine which is the worse—A Nervous Man or
A WORRYING WOMAN.
"I'm awfully worried this morning," said one woman. "What is it?" "Why, I thought of something to worry about last night, and now I can't remember it."
A famous actress once said: "Worry is the foe of all beauty." She might have added: "It is the foe to all health."
"It seems so heartless in me, if I do not worry about my children," said one mother.
Women nurse their troubles, as they do their babies. "Troubles grow larger," said Lady Holland, "by nursing."
The White Knight who carried about a mousetrap, lest he be troubled with mice upon his journeys, was not unlike those who anticipate their burdens.
"He grieves," says Seneca, "more than is necessary, who grieves before it is necessary."
"My children," said a dying man, "during my long life I have had a great many troubles, most of which never happened." A prominent business man in Philadelphia said that his father worried for twenty-five years over an anticipated misfortune which never arrived.
We try to grasp too much of life at once; since we think of it as a whole, instead of living one day at a time. Life is a mosaic, and each tiny piece must be cut and set with skill, first one piece, then another.
A clock would be of no use as a time-keeper if it should become discouraged and come to a standstill by calculating its work a year ahead, as the clock did in Jane Taylor's fable. It is not the troubles of today, but those of to-morrow and next week and next year, that whiten our heads, wrinkle our faces, and bring us to a standstill.
"There is such a thing," said Uncle Eben, "as too much foresight. People get to figuring what might happen year after next, and let the fire go out and catch their death of cold, right where they are."
Nervous prostration is seldom the result of present trouble or work, but of work and trouble anticipated. Mental exhaustion comes to those who look ahead, and climb mountains before reaching them. Resolutely build a wall about today, and live within the inclosure. The past may have been hard, sad, or wrong,—but it is over.
Why not take a turn about? Instead of worrying over unforeseen misfortune, set out with all your soul to rejoice in the unforeseen blessings of all your coming days. "I find the gayest castles in the air that were ever piled," says Emerson, "far better for comfort and for use than the dungeons in the air that are daily dug and caverned out by grumbling, discontented people."
What is this world but as you take it? Thackeray calls the world a looking-glass that gives back the reflection of one's own face. "Frown at it, and it will look sourly upon you; laugh at it, and it is a jolly companion."
"There is no use in talking," said a woman. "Every time I move, I vow I'll never move again. Such neighbors as I get in with! Seems as though they grow worse and worse." "Indeed?" replied her caller; "perhaps you take the worst neighbor with you when you move."
"In the sudden thunder-storm of Independence Day," says a news correspondent, "we were struck by the contrast between two women, each of whom had had some trying experience with the weather. One came through the rain and hail to take refuge at the railway station, under the swaying and uncertain shelter of an escorting man's umbrella. Her skirts were soaked to the knees, her pink ribbons were limp, the purple of the flowers on her hat ran in streaks down the white silk. And yet, though she was a poor girl and her holiday finery must have been relatively costly, she made the best of it with a smile and cheerful words. The other was well sheltered; but she took the disappointment of her hopes and the possibility of a little spattering from a leaky window with frowns and fault-finding."
"Cries little Miss
Happily a new era has of late opened for our worried housekeepers, who spend their time in "the half-frantic dusting of corners, spasmodic sweeping, impatient snatching or pushing aside obstacles in the room, hurrying and scurrying upstairs and down cellar." "It is not," says Prentice Mulford, "the work that exhausts them,—it is the mental condition they are in that makes so many old and haggard at forty." All that is needful now to ease up their burdens is to go to
OUR HAWAIIAN PARADISE.
A newspaper correspondent, Annie Laurie, has told us all about the new kind of American girls just added to our country:—
"They are as straight as an arrow, and walk as queens walk in fairy stories; they have great braids of sleek, black hair, soft brown eyes, and gleaming white teeth; they can swim and ride and sing; and they are brown with a skin that shines like bronze ... There isn't a worried woman in Hawaii. The women there can't worry. They don't know how. They eat and sing and laugh, and see the sun and the moon set, and possess their souls in smiling peace.
"If a Hawaii woman has a good dinner, she laughs and invites her friends to eat it with her; if she hasn't a good dinner, she laughs and goes to sleep,—and forgets to be hungry. She doesn't have to worry about what the people in the downstairs flat will think if they don't see the butcher's boy arrive on time. If she can earn the money, she buys a nice, new, glorified Mother Hubbard; and, if she can't get it, she throws the old one into the surf and washes it out, puts a new wreath of fresh flowers in her hair, and starts out to enjoy the morning and the breezes thereof.
"They are not earnest workers; they haven't the slightest idea that they were put upon earth to reform the universe,—they're just happy. They run across great stretches of clear, white sand, washed with resplendent purple waves, and, when the little brown babies roll in the surf, their brown mothers run after them, laughing and splashing like a lot of children. Or, perhaps we see them in gay cavalcades mounted upon garlanded ponies, adorned by white jasmine wreaths with roses and pinks. And here in this paradise of laughter and light hearts and gentle music, there's absolutely nothing to do but to care for the children and old people and to swim or ride. You couldn't start a 'reform circle' to save your life; there isn't a jail in the place, nor a tenement quarter, and there are no outdoor poor. There isn't a woman's club in Honolulu,—not a club. There was a culture circle once for a few days; a Boston woman who went there for her health organized it, but it interfered with afternoon nap-time, so nobody came."
When, hereafter, we talk about worrying women, we must take into account our Hawaiian sisters, if we will average up the amount of worry per capita, in our nation.
A WEATHER BREEDER.
It is probably quite within bounds to say that one out of three of our American farming population, women and men, never enjoy a beautiful day without first reminding you that "It is one of those infernal weather breeders."
Habitual fretters see more trouble than others. They are never so well as their neighbors. The weather never suits them. The climate is trying. The winds are too high or too low; it is too hot or too cold, too damp or too dry. The roads are either muddy or dusty.
"I met Mr. N. one wet morning," says Dr. John Todd; "and, bound as I was to make the best of it, I ventured:
"'Good morning. This rain will be fine for your grass crop.'
'Yes, perhaps,' he replied, 'but it is very bad for corn; I don't think we'll have half a crop.'
"A few days later, I met him again. 'This is a fine sun for corn, Mr. N.'
"'Yes,' said he, 'but it's awful for rye; rye wants cold weather.'
"One cool morning soon after, I said: 'This is a capital day for rye.'
"'Yes,' he said, 'but it is the worst kind of weather for corn and grass; they want heat to bring them forward.'"
There are a vast number of fidgety, nervous, and eccentric people who live only to expect new disappointments or to recount their old ones.
"Impatient people," said Spurgeon, "water their miseries, and hoe up their comforts."
"Let's see," said a neighbor to a farmer, whose wagon was loaded down with potatoes, "weren't we talking together last August?" "I believe so." "At that time, you said corn was all burnt up." "Yes." "And potatoes were baking in the ground." "Yes." "And that your district could not possibly expect more than half a crop." "I remember." "Well, here you are with your wagon loaded down. Things didn't turn out so badly, after all,—eh?" "Well, no-o," said the farmer, as he raked his fingers through his hair, "but I tell you my geese suffered awfully for want of a mud-hole to paddle in."
What is a pessimist but "a man who looks on the sun only as a thing that casts a shadow"?
In Pepys's "Diary" we learn the difference between "eyes shut and ears open," and "ears shut and eyes open." In going from John o' Groat's House to Land's End, a blind man would hear that the country was going to destruction, but a deaf man with eyes open could see great prosperity.
"I dare no more fret than curse or swear," said John Wesley.
"A discontented mortal is no more a man than discord is music."
"Why should a man whose blood is warm
Who are the "lemon squeezers of society"? They are people who predict evil, extinguish hope, and see only the worst side,—"people whose very look curdles the milk and sets your teeth on edge." They are often worthy people who think that pleasure is wrong; people, said an old divine, who lead us heavenward and stick pins into us all the way. They say depressing things and do disheartening things; they chill prayer-meetings, discourage charitable institutions, injure commerce, and kill churches; they are blowing out lights when they ought to be kindling them.
A man without mirth is like a wagon without springs, in which one jolts over every pebble; with mirth, he is like a chariot with springs, riding over the roughest roads and scarcely feeling anything but a pleasant rocking motion.
"Difficulties melt away before the man who carries about a cheerful spirit and persistently refuses to be discouraged, while they accumulate before the one who is always groaning over his hard luck and scanning the horizon for clouds not yet in sight."
"To one man," says Schopenhauer, "the world is barren, dull, and superficial; to another, rich, interesting, and full of meaning." If one loves beauty and looks for it, he will see it wherever he goes. If there is music in his soul, he will hear it everywhere; every object in nature will sing to him. Two men who live in the same house and do the same work may not live in the same world. Although they are under the same roof, one may see only deformity and ugliness; to him the world is out of joint, everything is cross-grained and out of sorts: the other is surrounded with beauty and harmony; everybody is kind to him; nobody wishes him harm. These men see the same objects, but they do not look through the same glasses; one looks through a smoked glass which drapes the whole world in mourning, the other looks through rose-colored lenses which tint everything with loveliness and touch it with beauty.
Take two persons just home from a vacation. "One has positively seen nothing, and has always been robbed; the landlady was a harpy, the bedroom was unhealthy, and the mutton was tough. The other has always found the coziest nooks, the cheapest houses, the best landladies, the finest views, and the best dinners."
"WHAT IS AN OPTIMIST?"
This is the question a farmer's boy asked of his father.
"Well, John," replied his father, "you know I can't give ye the dictionary meanin' of that word any more 'n I can of a great many others. But I've got a kind of an idee what it means. Probably you don't remember your Uncle Henry; but I guess if there ever was an optimist, he was one. Things was always comin' out right with Henry, and especially anything hard that he had to do; it wa' n't a-goin' to be hard,—'t was jest kind of solid-pleasant.
"Take hoein' corn, now. If anything ever tuckered me out, 'twas hoein' corn in the hot sun. But in the field, 'long about the time I begun to lag back a little, Henry he'd look up an' say:—
"'Good, Jim! When we get these two rows hoed, an' eighteen more, the piece'll be half done.' An' he'd say it in such a kind of a cheerful way that I couldn't 'a' ben any more tickled if the piece had been all done,—an' the rest would go light enough.
"But the worst thing we had to do—hoein corn was a picnic to it—was pickin' stones. There was no end to that on our old farm, if we wanted to raise anything. When we wa'n't hurried and pressed with somethin' else, there was always pickin' stones to do; and there wa'n't a plowin' but what brought up a fresh crop, an' seems as if the pickin' had all to be done over again.
"Well, you'd' a' thought, to hear Henry, that there wa'n't any fun in the world like pickin' stones. He looked at it in a different way from anybody I ever see. Once, when the corn was all hoed, and the grass wa'n't fit to cut yet, an' I'd got all laid out to go fishin', and father he up and set us to pickin' stones up on the west piece, an' I was about ready to cry, Henry he says:—
"'Come on, Jim. I know where there's lots of nuggets.'
"An' what do you s'pose, now? That boy had a kind of a game that that there field was what he called a plasser mining field; and he got me into it, and I could 'a' sworn I was in Californy all day,—I had such a good time.
"'Only,' says Henry, after we'd got through the day's work, 'the way you get rich with these nuggets is to get rid of 'em, instead of to get 'em.'
"That somehow didn't strike my fancy, but we'd had play instead of work, anyway, an' a great lot of stones had been rooted out of that field.
"An', as I said before, I can't give ye any dictionary definition of optimism; but if your Uncle Henry wa'n't an optimist, I don't know what one is."
At life's outset, says one, a cheerful optimistic temperament is worth everything. A cheerful man, who always "feels first-rate," who always looks on the bright side, who is ever ready to snatch victory from defeat, is the successful man.
Everybody avoids the company of those who are always grumbling, who are full of "ifs" and "buts," and "I told you so's." We like the man who always looks toward the sun, whether it shines or not. It is the cheerful, hopeful man we go to for sympathy and assistance; not the carping, gloomy critic,—who always thinks it is going to rain, and that we are going to have a terribly hot summer, or a fearful thunder-storm, or who is forever complaining of hard times and his hard lot. It is the bright, cheerful, hopeful, contented man who makes his way, who is respected and admired.
Gloom and depression not only take much out of life, but detract greatly from the chances of winning success. It is the bright and cheerful spirit that wins the final triumph.
LIVING UP THANKSGIVING AVENUE.
"I see our brother, who has just sat down, lives on Grumbling street," said a keen-witted Yorkshireman. "I lived there myself for some time, and never enjoyed good health. The air was bad, the house bad, the water bad; the birds never came and sang in the street; and I was gloomy and sad enough. But I 'flitted.' I got into Thanksgiving avenue; and ever since then I have had good health, and so have all my family. The air is pure, the house good; the sun shines on it all day; the birds are always singing; and I am happy as I can live. Now, I recommend our brother to 'flit.' There are plenty of houses to let on Thanksgiving avenue; and he will find himself a new man if he will only come; and I shall be right glad to have him for a neighbor."
This world was not intended for a "vale of tears," but as a sweet Vale of Content. Travelers are told by the Icelanders, who live amid the cold and desolation of almost perpetual winter, that "Iceland is the best land the sun shines upon." "In the long Arctic night, the Eskimo is blithe, and carolsome, far from the approach of the white man; while amid the glorious scenery and Eden-like climate of Central America, the native languages have a dozen words for pain and misery and sorrow, for one with any cheerful signification."
When a Persian king was directed by his wise men to wear the shirt of a contented man, the only contented man in the kingdom had no shirt. The most contented man in Boston does not live on Commonwealth avenue or do business on State street: he is poor and blind, and he peddles needles and thread, buttons and sewing-room supplies, about the streets of Boston from house to house. Dr. Minot J. Savage used to pity this man very much, and once in venturing to talk with him about his condition, he was utterly amazed to find that the man was perfectly happy. He said that he had a faithful wife, and a business by which he earned sufficient for his wants; and, if he were to complain of his lot, he should feel mean and contemptible. Surely, if there are any "solid men" in Boston, he is one.
Content is the magic lamp, which, according to the beautiful picture painted for us by Goethe, transforms the rude fisherman's hut into a palace of silver; the logs, the floors, the roof, the furniture, everything being changed and gleaming with new light.
"Cheerfulness as a Life Power"
by Orison Swett Marden
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