Menticulture - Chicago Interior, Oct. 3, 1895

( Originally Published 1901 )



It is not to the discredit of new things that they are old. They are more attractive when novelty is combined with antiquity. Men have ever been studying the great problem of life the best way to live and the best way to dull the tooth of pain, and the way to make the most good and the least evil of everything. The old Greeks made a philosophy of their thinking along this line, and called it stoicism. They gave up the idea of making little of evil and much of good, because making much of good would, in spite of them, make much also of evil. Therefore, they said: " Let there be neither evil nor good." We can attain this by suppressing the passions. At the same time Gautama was teaching the same thing in India. The Christian church followed the same idea and instituted Monasticism, so that the stoical philosophy became and remains world wide. To one who has not noticed particularly, it will cause surprise to observe how prevalent this idea is among people who never heard of Greek philosophy. It is the disposition to make the best of everything, and to be as indifferent as possible to misfortunes and troubles of any kind. No people are more successful in this than the American Indian.

Our attention is called to this subject by a little book of practical stoicism, by Mr. Horace Fletcher, called Menticulture.

We are not disposed to criticize the author for going to the antipodes for the philosophy of Zeus, Socrates and Marcus Aurelius, more especially as the observations of more familiar philosophers seem to have been overlooked by him. There is a pretty large literature of it in the Bible, be-ginning, we will say, with David's " Fret not thyself, to do evil," including Job's re-marks to an angry man that he was only teasing himself that the earth would not be forsaken nor the rocks flee away because thereof; Solomon's remark that a man slow to anger is better than the mighty, and that anger resteth in the bosom of fools; and our Lord on the eradication of anger, which must not be suffered to live to the going down of the sun. Rather, we would thank him for the cogency and freshness of his little treatise. He makes many good and true points. Anger is weakness, not strength; it is a paralysis.

All of which is true. There is no root of bitterness so bitter as malice. It gives the heart that cherishes it incessant pain. As for worry, it is subject to the will. One can by a single effort resolve to banish it, and to take hold of the cause of his or her trouble with a calm and placid mind, to make the best of it. There are, however, exceptional conditions. Anger and worry are symptoms of weakness, and this weakness may come of nerve exhaustion. This may be produced by overwork. A day of men-tal overwork is pretty certain to be followed by a night of irritability and worry. So also, protracted pain, neuralgic or other, produces fretfulness and gloom. Everyone has noticed the difference of the condition of his or her mind before or after a night of refreshing sleep. Narcotics and stimulants produce the condition of anger and worry. And yet it must be said that they are habits. The weakened mind and nerves fall into them as well-worn and familiar channels. Weakness does not necessarily, by any means, find expression in them. On the contrary, there are many instances in which pain, over-exhaustion, and even the physical decline of old age, develop the most beautiful sweetness, placidity, and love.

The conclusion of the whole matter is this: Let us all try it, and try it our best. Let us be on our guard against anger and worry. Let us seek to help ourselves against them by occupying the mind with better things. And the best and most helpful of all better things is a habit of confidence, and repose, under the loving shelter of God.

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