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Menticulture - You May Smile Away Your Anger, If You Will

( Originally Published 1901 )


Concerning the subject of Mr. Fletcher's book on " The A-B-C of True Living," or, rather, concerning the sentences from it which you quote, I must speak only in a hasty way. These sentences are pregnant with suggestions that should not go unheeded. Any observant and reflecting person of mature years must have noted that the extravasation of passion upon motive is as fatal to achievement as the extravasation of blood upon the brain is fatal to life. Bacon's plea for the " white light," which he says " is ever the best," must be put far to the front and high up among wise and healthy doctrines. Motives, in his happy phrase, "blooded by the affections," are ever liable to produce collisions, injury, and wreck.

How banish anger and worry from the horizon of the soul? It were better to banish them from the horizon. Better to keep them too far away to tempt us. How? Cultivate a quick knowledge of their desolating nature a knowledge refined and sensitized into an instructive recoil, as from the open shaft of an elevator, the projecting cliff above a mountain gorge, a runaway team, a rushing engine.

How cultivate such knowledge? Make frequent inventories of the losses, misfortunes, regrets, that have attended and followed the possession of us by these passions; note (and these we can more correctly estimate) the losses borne by others through robberies by these outlaws, and as children grow to have a horror of drunkenness by a picture of its woes, so we may come, by degrees, to live in an atmosphere unfriendly to these disturbing agencies. A clean body, clean thought, and spotless integrity will be found also an amazing help in clearing the air.

But consider these foes already in possession. How dislodge them? " Turn in upon them the self-acting and regnant will," is perhaps the prescription of some stalwart Kantian. " Hurl them out, neck and crop, by the royal power of high self-assertion."

Good. But some wills are not regnant. Some wills need the aid of strategy need to find " the line of least resistance." The resisting power of a raging or persistent passion against a force applied directly upon it is terrific. Is there possible an indirect application of the will easier to make within the power of the weaker will to make

and which, at the same time, will prove effective? I venture to suggest such an application. Are you angry? Are you worried? Draw all the face muscles involved in smiling into the direction that expresses a smile. Are you angry now? Are you worried now? Impossible. Smiles may shelter deception, wicked purpose, and a great variety of villany, but the whole brood of passions that owe their parentage to anger and worry will skip from beneath the roof-tree of a smile like brownies from a daybreak, whether the smile springs from the light of a happy spirit or is the structure built by an intelligent will. Empiricism? Well, try it.

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