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Moral Sunshine





I have gout, asthma, and seven other maladies, but am otherwise
very well.
--SIDNEY SMITH.

The inborn geniality of some people amounts to genius.
--WHIPPLE.

This one sits shivering in fortune's smile,
Taking his joy with bated, doubtful breath;
This other, gnawed by hunger, all the while
Laughs in the teeth of death.
--T. B. ALDRICH.

There is no real life but cheerful life.
--ADDISON.

Next to the virtue, the fun in this world is what we can least
spare.
--AGNES STRICKLAND.

Joy in one's work is the consummate tool.
--PHILLIPS BROOKS.

Joy is the mainspring in the whole
Of endless Natures calm rotation.
Joy moves the dazzling wheels that roll
In the great timepiece of Creation.
--SCHILLER.


"He is as stiff as a poker," said a friend of a man who could never be
coaxed or tempted to smile. "Stiff as a poker," exclaimed another, "why
he would set an example to a poker."

Even Christians are not celebrated for entering into the _joy_ of their
Lord.

We are told that "Pascal would not permit himself to be conscious of
the relish of his food; he prohibited all seasonings and spices, however
much he might wish for and need them; and he actually died because he
forced his diseased stomach to receive at each meal a certain amount of
aliment, neither more nor less, whatever might be his appetite at the
time, or his utter want of appetite. He wore a girdle armed with iron
spikes, which he was accustomed to drive in upon his body (his fleshless
ribs) as often as he thought himself in need of such admonition. He was
annoyed and offended if any in his hearing might chance to say that they
had just seen a beautiful woman. He rebuked a mother who permitted her
own children to give her their kisses. Toward a loving sister, who
devoted herself to his comfort, he assumed an artificial harshness of
manner for the _express purpose_, as he acknowledged, of revolting her
sisterly affection."

And all this sprung from the simple principle that earthly enjoyment was
inconsistent with religion.

We should fight against every influence which tends to depress the mind,
as we would against a temptation to crime. A depressed mind prevents the
free action of the diaphragm and the expansion of the chest. It stops
the secretions of the body, interferes with the circulation of the blood
in the brain, and deranges the entire functions of the body. Scrofula
and consumption often follow protracted depressions of mind. That "fatal
murmur" which is heard in the upper lobes of the lungs in the first
stages of consumption, often follows depressed spirits after some great
misfortune or sorrow. Victims of suicide are almost always in a
depressed state from exhausted vitality, loss of nervous energy,
dyspepsia, worry, anxiety, trouble, or grief.

"Mirth is God's medicine," says a wise writer; "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." It is better than emery. Every man
ought to rub himself with it. A man without mirth is like a wagon
without springs, in which one is caused disagreeably to jolt by every
pebble over which it runs. A man with mirth is like a chariot with
springs, in which one can ride over the roughest roads and scarcely feel
anything but a pleasant rocking motion.

"I have told you," said Southey, "of the Spaniard who always put on
spectacles when about to eat cherries, in order that the fruit might
look larger and more tempting. In like manner I make the most of my
enjoyments; and though I do not cast my eyes away from my troubles, I
pack them in as small a compass as I can for myself, and never let them
annoy others." We all know the power of good cheer to magnify
everything.

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."

"You are on the shady side of seventy, I expect?" was asked of an old
man. "No," was the reply, "I am on the sunny side; for I am on the side
nearest to glory."

A cheerful man is pre-eminently a useful man. He does not cramp his
mind, nor take half-views of men and things. He knows that there is much
misery, but that misery need not be the rule of life. He sees that in
every state people may be cheerful; the lambs skip, birds sing and fly
joyously, puppies play, kittens are full of joyance, the whole air full
of careering and rejoicing insects; that everywhere the good outbalances
the bad, and that every evil has its compensating balm.

"Bishop Fenelon is a delicious man," said Lord Peterborough; "I had to
run away from him to prevent his making me a Christian."

Hume, the historian, never said anything truer than--"To be happy, the
person must be cheerful and gay, not gloomy and melancholy. A propensity
to hope and joy is real riches; one to fear and sorrow, real poverty."

Dr. Johnson once remarked with his point and pith that the custom of
looking on the bright side of every event was better than having a
thousand pounds a year income. But Hume rated the value in dollars and
cents of cheerfulness still higher. He said he would rather have a
cheerful disposition always inclined to look on the bright side of
things than to be master of an estate with 10,000 pounds a year.

"We have not fulfilled every duty, unless we have fulfilled that of
being pleasant."

"If a word or two will render a man happy," said a Frenchman, "he must
be a wretch indeed, who will not give it. It is like lighting another
man's candle with your own, which loses none of its brilliancy by what
the other gains."

The sensible young man, in theory at least, chooses for his wife one who
will be able to keep his house, to be the mother of sturdy children, one
who will of all things meet life's experiences with a sweet temper. It
is impossible to imagine a pleasant home with a cross wife, mother or
sister, as its presiding genius. And it is a rule, with exceptions, that
good appetite and sound sleep induce amiability. If, with these
advantages, a girl or woman, boy or man, is still snappish or surly, why
it must be due to her or his total depravity.

Some things she should not do; she shouldn't dose herself, or study up
her case, or plunge suddenly into vigorous exercise. Moderation is a
safe rule to begin with, and, indeed, to keep on with--moderation in
study, in work, in exercise, in everything except fresh air, good,
simple food, and sleep. Few people have too much of these. The average
girl at home can find no more sanitary gymnastics than in doing part of
the lighter housework. This sort of exercise has object, and interest,
and use, which raises it above mere drill. Add to this a merry romp with
younger brothers and sisters, a brisk daily walk, the use for a few
moments twice a day of dumb bells in a cool, airy room, and it is safe
to predict a steady advance toward that ideal state of being in which we
forget our bodies and just enjoy ourselves.

"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."

Helen Hunt says there is one sin which seems to be everywhere, and by
everybody is underestimated and quite too much overlooked in valuations
of character. It is the sin of fretting. It is as common as air, as
speech; so common that unless it rises above its usual monotone we do
not even observe it. Watch any ordinary coming together of people, and
we see how many minutes it will be before somebody frets--that is, makes
more or less complaint of something or other, which probably every one
in the room, or car, or on the street corner knew before, and which most
probably nobody can help. Why say anything about it? It is cold, it is
hot, it is wet, it is dry, somebody has broken an appointment,
ill-cooked a meal; stupidity or bad faith somewhere has resulted in
discomfort. There are plenty of things to fret about. It is simply
astonishing, how much annoyance and discomfort may be found in the
course of every-day living, even of the simplest, if one only keeps a
sharp eye out on that side of things. Some people seem to be always
hunting for deformities, discords and shadows, instead of beauty,
harmony and light. We are born to trouble, as sparks fly upward. But
even to the sparks flying upward, in the blackest of smoke, there is a
blue sky above, and the less time they waste on the road, the sooner
they will reach it. Fretting is all time wasted on the road.

About two things we should never fret, that which we cannot help, and
that which we can help. Better find one of your own faults than ten of
your neighbor's.

It is not the troubles of to-day, but those of to-morrow and next week
and next year, that whiten our heads and wrinkle our faces.

"Every man we meet looks as if he'd gone out to borrow trouble, with
plenty of it on hand," said a French lady driving in New York.

The pendulum of a certain clock began to calculate how often it would
have to swing backward and forward in the week and in the month to come;
then looking further into the future, it made a calculation for a year,
etc. The pendulum got frightened and stopped. Do one day's work at a
time. Do not worry about the trouble of to-morrow. Most of the trouble
in life is borrowed trouble, which never actually comes.

"As all healthy action, physical, intellectual and moral, depends
primarily on cheerfulness," says E. P. Whipple, "and as every duty,
whether it be to follow a plow or to die at the stake, should be done in
a cheerful spirit, the exploration of the sources and conditions of this
most vigorous, exhilarating and creative of the virtues may be as useful
as the exposition of any topic of science or system of prudential art."

Christ, the great teacher, did not shut Himself up with monks, away from
temptation of the great world outside. He taught no long-faced, gloomy
theology. He taught the gospel of gladness and good cheer. His doctrines
are touched with the sunlight, and flavored with the flowers of the
fields. The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and happy,
romping children are in them. True piety is cheerful as the day.

Cranmer cheers his brother martyrs, and Latimer walks with a face
shining with cheerfulness to the stake, upholds his fellow's spirits,
and seasons all his sermons with pleasant anecdotes.

"Nothing will supply the want of sunshine to peaches," said Emerson,
"and to make knowledge valuable, you must have the cheerfulness of
wisdom."

In answer to the question, "How shall we overcome temptation," a noted
writer said, "Cheerfulness is the first thing, cheerfulness is the
second, and cheerfulness is the third." A habit of cheerfulness,
enabling one to transmute apparent misfortunes into real blessings, is a
fortune to a young man or young woman just crossing the threshold of
active life. He who has formed a habit of looking at the bright, happy
side of things, who sees the glory in the grass, the sunshine in the
flowers, sermons in stones, and good in everything, has a great
advantage over the chronic dyspeptic, who sees no good in anything. His
habitual thought sculptures his face into beauty and touches his manner
with grace.

We often forget that the priceless charm which will secure to us all
these desirable gifts is within our reach. It is the charm of a sunny
temper, a talisman more potent than station, more precious than gold,
more to be desired than fine rubies. It is an aroma, whose fragrance
fills the air with the odors of Paradise.

"It is from these enthusiastic fellows," says an admirer, "that you
hear--what they fully believe, bless them!--that all countries are
beautiful, all dinners grand, all pictures superb, all mountains high,
all women beautiful. When such a one has come back from his country
trip, after a hard year's work, he has always found the cosiest of
nooks, the cheapest houses, the best of landladies, the finest views,
and the best dinners. But with the other the case is indeed altered. He
has always been robbed; he has positively seen nothing; his landlady was
a harpy, his bedroom was unhealthy, and the mutton was so tough that he
could not get his teeth through it."

"He goes on to talk of the sun in his glory," says Izaak Walton, "the
fields, the meadows, the streams which they have seen, the birds which
they have heard; he asks what would the blind and deaf give to see and
hear what they have seen."

Of Lord Holland's sunshiny face, Rogers said: "He always comes to
breakfast like a man upon whom some sudden good fortune has fallen."

But oh, for the glorious spectacles worn by the good-natured man!--oh,
for those wondrous glasses, finer than the Claude Lorraine glass, which
throw a sunlit view over everything, and make the heart glad with little
things, and thankful for small mercies! Such glasses had honest Izaak
Walton, who, coming in from a fishing expedition on the river Lea, burst
out into such grateful little talks as this: "Let us, as we walk home
under the cool shade of this honeysuckle hedge, mention some of the
thoughts and joys that have possessed my soul since we two met. And that
our present happiness may appear the greater, and we more thankful for
it, I beg you to consider with me, how many do at this very time lie
under the torment of the gout or the toothache, and this we have been
free from; and let me tell you, that every misery I miss is a new
blessing."

The hypochondriac who nurses his spleen never looks forward cheerfully,
but lounges in his invalid chair, and croaks like a raven, foreboding
woe. "Ah," says he, "you will never succeed; these things always fail."

The Thug of India, whose prayer is a homicide, and whose offering is the
body of a victim, is melancholy.

The Fijiian, waiting to smash the skull of a victim, and to prepare a
bakola for his gods, is gloomy as fear and death.

The melancholy of the Eastern Jews after their black fast, and the
ill-temper of monks and nuns after their Fridays and Wednesdays, is very
observable; it is the recompense which a proud nature takes out of the
world for its selfish sacrifice. Melancholia is the black bile which the
Greeks presumed overran and pervaded the bodies of such persons; and
fasting does undoubtedly produce this.

"I once talked with a Rosicrucian about the Great Secret," said Addison.
"He talked of it as a spirit that lived in an emerald, and converted
everything that was near it to the highest perfection. 'It gives lustre
to the sun,' said he, 'and water to the diamond. It irradiates every
metal, and enriches lead with the property of gold. It brightens smoke
into flame, flame into light, and light into glory. A single ray
dissipates pain and care from the person on whom it falls.' Then I found
his great secret was Content."

My crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen: my crown is called content:
A crown it is, that seldom kings enjoy.
--SHAKESPEARE.

Yet, with a heart that's ever kind,
A gentle spirit gay,
You've spring perennial in your mind,
And round you make a May.
--THACKERAY.





Next: Hold Up Your Head

Previous: Above Rubies



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