The Alchemy of a Cheerful Mind
The World is Better for the Man Who Makes People Laugh
DR. O. S. MARDEN
“A REAL power of life lies in smiles. Smiles are the only potentials known that move things whether they intend to move or not.”
“What is an optimist?” asked a farmer’s boy.
“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 idea what it means. Probably you don’t remember your Uncle Henry ; but I guess if there was ever an optimist, he was one. Things was always coming out right with Henry, and especially anything hard that he had to do; it wasn’t a-goin’ to be hard—’twas jest sort 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; an’ 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 body 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 California all day, we had such a good time.
Only/ gays Henry, after we’d got through the day’s work, ‘ the wav you get rich with these nuggets ^ is to get rid of ’em, instead " of
Editor’s Note.—The business man of Canada has come to look upon certain days in July and August as his rightful vacation time. The strenuous fight for the mastery of detail and dollars saps the vitality and is liable to slightly twist the disposition. With a quiet fish and a forest meditation, the renewed life needs little reminding of the value of a cheerful mind. Since nearly every person at this time of the year will have noticed the value of vigorous energy, this contribution by Dr. Orison Swett Marden, late editor of Success, will be particularly welcome. There are very few people who will not benefit by a second reading.
keepin’ 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.
“And, as I said before, I can’t give ye any dictionary definition of optimism ; but if your Uncle Henry wasn’t an optimist, I don’t know what one is.”
An optimistic mind is a sort of a prism which brings the rainbow colors out of things which are invisible to the pessimist.
The prism does not make the colors in the spectrum. They are everywhere in the light before our eyes. Our light is made up of all the different colors of the rainbow. The prism merely separates them and makes them visible to the eye.
Every man should have an optimisticlens which can distinguish the uncommon in the common, which can detect all the beauties there are in his environment.
It is wicked to go about among one’s fellow men with a face which indicates that life has been a disappointment to you instead of a glorious joy.
What a pitiable thing to see people go through life peddling vinegar, radiating bitterness, finding fault, and seeing only the ugly; worrying, fretting, cynical, and pessimistic f Some people have a genius for seeing only the crooked, the evil and disagreeable. Pessimism is always a destroyer, never a producer.
We need more joy peddlers, and sunshine makers, more people who refuse to see the ugly, the bitter and the crooked ; who see the world of beauty and perfection which God has made, and not the world which sin and discord arid disease have made. We need people who see the man and woman whom God has made—pure, clean, sane, healthy—and not the ugly, diseased, discordant dwarf, the burlesque of man, which wrong thinking wrong living and sin have made.
Oh, what riches live in a sunny soul !
Take joy with joy; cling to her, no matter where you go or what you do. It is your lubricating oil which would prevent the jars, the discords, and shut out the sorrows of life. What a heritage is a smiling face—to be able to fling out sunshine everywhere one goes, to scatter the shadows and to lighten sorrowing hearts ; to have the power to send cheer into despairing souls through a sunny and radiating disposition !
The ability to radiate sunshine is a greater power than beauty or wealth. If you would do the maximum of which you are capable, keep the mind filled with sunshine, with beauty and truth, with cheerful, uplifting thoughts. Bury everything that makes you unhappy and discordant, everything that cramps your freedom, that worries you, before it buries you.”
Probably many readers of this book have heard of “ Smiling Joe,” the optimistic little cripple at the Sea Breeze Home on Long Island. He was kept strapped to a board during four years of his life on account of severe spinal trouble. Yet he was the happiest child in the hospital, and, in spite of being strapped to his cruel board all these years, radiated more sunshine than anybody else in the home.
The test of character is one’s ability to remain cheerful, serene, hopeful, even under fire. It is easy to be bright and optimistic when
one enjoys robust health and is prosperous, but it requires heroic qualities to be so when poor health mocks ambition, and we are surrounded by disheartening conditions.
We want cheerful men and women, with more hopefulness and laughter. We have enough long and sour faces, enough of chilling looks and exclusive manners. Cheerfulness is one of the great miracle workers of the world. It reinforces the whole man, doubles and trebles his power and gives a new meaning to life. No man has failed until he has lost his cheerfulness, his optimistic outlook upon life. Give me the man who, like Emerson, believes there is a remedy for every wrong, a satisfaction for every longing soul; the man who believes the best of everybody, and who sees beauty and loveliness where others see ugliness and disgust. Give me the man who believes that there is a great underlying, beneficent principle running through the world, a current running heavenward; who believes that there is a great beneficent cause which brings things out infinitely better than we can plan them ourselves; who does not try to regulate the universe, but simply trusts this great divine principle. Give me the man who believes in the ultimate triumph of truth over error, of harmony over discord, of love over hate, of purity over vice, of light over darkness, of life over death. Such men are the true nation builders.
The man who has learned to surround himself with an atmosphere of peace and harmony, no matter what discord and darkness are in his environment, is the man who has learned the last lesson of culture.
And, after all, this peace and serenity must come by controlling the thought and by knowing that only the real, the good, is true, because God made it, and that everything else is false because He did not' make it.
When we learn that discord, disease, and all that worries and frets and makes us anxious are only the absence of harmony, and that they are not realities of being, that God never made them, and hence they must be false, then we shall learn the secret of real harmonious living, we shall learn the secret of scientific living. Then we can throw the best of ourselves into the most unfortunate environment, we can fling out the fragrance and beauty of serene and balanced lives, even in the most discordant surroundings. Think the good; drive away evil; keep the mind so filled with the good, the beautiful and the true, that the opposites will find no affinity there. If there is no music in me, no affinity for justice, for the good, the beautiful and the true, then I may not appreciate them in my life. If there is
no Emerson in me, then his works will not find a response in my soul. If there is no love of the beautiful in my soul, then I shall meet no beauty anywhere in the world.
When we learn that there is enough divinity in us to conquer all the inharmony, to swallow all the discord that would mar the great' divine symphony, then we shall be living to some purpose. This knowledge is the magic
which will transform the hovel into a palace.
Deacon Brown was always noted for expressing his gratitude in the prayer meetings, for some special blessing, even though all sorts of misfortunes and hard luck had followed him all his life, and he had lost everything he had ever had —every member of his family, his home, his property, his health.
SCATTERING FLOWER SEEKS.
His friends wondered what he could find to be grateful for. He seemed just as cheerful and optimistic as ever. “Waal,” he said, “even if I’ve lost everything in the world, I’m still thanking the Lord I’ve two teeth left and one opposite t’other.”
A man traveling in the West on a crowded train sat in the seat with an old lady, who every little while would take a bottle from her satchel, hold it out of the window and shake something out of it which looked like salt. The man finally asked her what she was doing this for. “Oh,” she said, “these are flower seeds. I have made it a rule for many years when traveling to scatter seeds by the railroad tracks, especially in crossing the desert and in unattractive parts of the country. Do you see those beautiful flowers beside the track? Well, they came from seed which I scattered along this same road many years ago.”
“Hopefulness laughter and cheer!” some one writes. “Scatter them wherever you go like roses on your path. Give them in place of grudges and throw them out instead of hints. Exchange them for insinuations and substitute them for complaints. Take them to your shopmates in the morning and bring them back to your loved ones at noon. Bestow them in the office and send them in the mail. Carry them to the sick and leave them with the unconsoled. Everywhere and always, with your Christian geniality, warm up the cold streets and hearthstones of the world.”
Cheerfulness amid dark and gloomy surroundings is like the glow of sunlight irradiating the murkiness of the day. The influence of a cheerful spirit cannot be estimated. It takes only a drop of oil to stop a screeching axle or hinge. So a little bit of sunshine scatters shadows. Sunlight has an inspiriting effect, a beneficent influence; it is favorable to health : it makes all nature rejoice, and it warms the soul of man. So a cheerful face lightens other hearts, gives strength to other lives, and imparts courage to face difficulties that may frown before one. Some one has said, “A happy human face—it is the gift that may be made by poor or rich, by old or young. It is the gift to which ail are entitled, with which all are pleased. It is written in a language all can
read, and carries a message none can refuse.”
T just like to let her in at the door,” said an Irish servant of a lady caller. “The very face of her does one good, sure.”
How glad we' all are to welcome sunny souls I We are never too busy to see them. There is nothing we welcome so much as sunshine.
uThe cheerful heart makes its own blue sky.”
We all know how the very landscape seems to laugh with us when we rejoice, seems to exult with us when we are glad, and the very sun and the flowers seem to reflect our joy. But when we are melancholy and blue all nature takes on the same expression, and while, of course, there is no real change in nature, yet to us this apparent change is tremendous.
When we lose the power to smile, what hideous images arise in the mind I How soon the imagination becomes morbid! The mind becomes infested with doubts and feaers, and hallucinations when its activity ceases. When the purpose is gone, disorder comes in; when joy goes out, melancholia enters.
If there is anything we need in th too serious civilization of ours, it is me and women who smile always. It cos no more to wear a smile than to ß about with a thunder-cloud expressior and what a difference it will make t you and everybody who sees yot Everybody we meet is helped or hindei ed by what we radiate. It makes a the difference in the world whether w go about with a smiling face or wearin a frown. A smile in the heart not onl changes the expression but it change the whole nature which, as we knov takes on the color of our moods. f time has gone by when lon£ faced, too sober, too serious people sha! dominate the world. Melancholy so! emnity used to be regarded as a sign o spirituality, but it is now looked upo: as the imprint of a morbid mind Ther is no religion in it. True religion is ful oí hope, sunshine, optimism and cheei . a « j°y««s and glad an, beautiful. There is no Christianity it Uie ugly, the discordant, the sad. Th religion which Christ taught was brighl cheerful, and beautiful. The sunshine
Ï! „• H;ef.of‘Se f!eld’” the oo
the air, the hills, the valleys, the trees the mountains, the brooks—all thing beautiful—were in His teaching. Then was no cold, dry theology in it. It wa just happy Christianity !
Refuse to be gloomy. Cheer up Get our mind off your troubles. not think of them. Think of the brigh things in life. Think gratefully of th; good things you have, and be cheerful
Emerson says, “Do not hang a dis
mal picture on your wall, and do not deal with sables and glooms in your conversation.”
If you carry about a gloomy face, you advertise the fact that hope has died out of you ; that life has been a disappointment to you. Adopt the sun dial’s motto: “I record none but hours of sunshine.”
What else in life is more valuable than the art of forgetting, of burying, covering up the disagreeable, everything that has caused us pain and hindered our progress?
The person who has this art is largely independent of his immediate surroundings. He can be happy without money. He can be happy in good times or in hard time. He can rejoice when others are mourning, have a good time when others are in the “blues.”
Man was not made to express discord, but harmony : to express beauty, truth, love and happiness; wholeness, not halfness; completeness, not incompleteness.
The mental temple was not given us for the storing of things that distress us. It was intended for the abode of the gods, for the treasuring of high purposes, grand aims, noble aspirations.
It does not take very long to learn that the good excludes the bad; that the higher always shuts out the lower; that the greater motive, the grander affection, excludes the lesser, the lower. The good is more than a match for the bad.
“Above all else, I love a courageous gayety—one that can accomplish great deeds with smiles and song; that gayety of the soldier who makes the best of everything, seasons his thin porridge with a joke, laughs over his primitive bed, the inclemency of the seasons, and hums the tunes of his native country while firing his gun.”
What a marvelous gift to have that mental alchemy which makes even poverty seem atractive, which sees the ludicrous side of misfortune !
. A business woman thus tells of an interesting experiment she made :
“I started out to my work one morning, determined to try the power of cheerful thinking (I had been moody, sullen, and discouraged long enough).
I said to myself : “I have often observed that a happy state of mind has a wonderful effect upon my physical makeup, so I will try its effect upon others, and see if my right thinking can be brought to act upon them.” You see I was curious.
“As I walked along, more and more resolved on my purpose, and persisting that I was happy, that the world was treating me well, I was surprised to find myself lifted up, as it were: my carriage became more erect, my step lighter, and I had the sensation of treading on air. Unconsciously, I was smiling, for I caught myself in the act
once or twice. I looked into the faces of the women I passed and there saw so much trouble and anxiety, discontent, even to peevishness, that my heart went out to them, and I wished I could impart to them a wee bit of the sunshine I felt pervading me.
“Arriving at the office, I greeted the bookkeeper with some passing remark, that for the life of me I could not have made under different conditions; I am not naturally witty : it immediately put us on a pleasant footing for the day ; she had caught the reflection. The president of the company, by whom I was employed, was a very busy man and much worried over his affairs, and at some remark that he made about my work I would ordinarily have felt quite hurt (being too sensitive by nature and education) ; but this day I had determined nothing should mar its brightness, so replied to him cheerfully. His brow cleared, and there was another pleasant footing established, and so throughout the day I went, allowing no cloud to spoil its beauty for me or others about me. At the kind home where I was staying the same course was pursued, and, where before I had felt estrangement and want of sympathy I found congeniality and warm friendship. People will meet you halfway, if you will take the trouble to go that far.
“So, my sisters, if you think the world is not treating you kindly, don’t delay a day, but say to yourselves: “I am going to keep young in spite of the gray hairs; even if things do not always come my way I am going to live for others, and shed sunshine across the pathway of all I meet.” You will find happiness springing up like flowers around you, will never want for friends or companionship, and above all the peace of God will rest upon your soul.”)
Some people have a faculty for touching the wrong keys ; from the finest in-; strument they extract only discord.' They sound the note of pessimism everywhere. All their songs are in a! minor key. Everything is looking down. The shadows predominate in all their pictures. There is nothing bright, cheerful, or beautiful about them. Their outlook is always gloomy; times are always hard and money tight. Everything in them seems to be contracting; nothing expanding or growing or widening in their lives.
There is no habit which will giv# more satisfaction, that will enrich you more than this of doing a good turn for others at every opportunity. If you cannot give material help, if you have no money to give, you can always help by a cheerful spirit, by cordial words of sympathy, kindness, and encouragement. There are more hearts hungering for love and smpathy and cheer than for money, and these you can always give.