Menticulture - San Francisco Chronicle

( Originally Published 1901 )

AUGUST 7, 1892


Everything in this world is necessarily measured by comparison, and yet there are some things of which it can be predicated that they are absolutely bad, having no single redeeming quality, and of this category the very worst of all is worry.

It should be said that worry, as used in this sense, does not mean those petty and temporary annoyances to which we all are subject, and which are to be classed among the light afflictions of the apostle. By worry we mean the habit of allowing one's self to be really and seriously troubled over all sorts of matters, grave or light, serious or insignificant, until the person into whom the demon of worry has entered becomes completely subject to the fiend and loses moral-fiber, self-control, will-power, and personal independence.

Worry is very much the creature of habit, like a great many of our other vices, great and small, and the habit of worry is cumulative. It grows apace by what it feeds upon, until, to adopt the expressive Hibernicism, a person is never happy unless he is thoroughly miserable. To the chronic worrier, if the word be permissible, no joy is complete unless he can discover the drop of bitterness in the bottom of the cup; no rose is lovely unless the canker-worm lies hidden in its petals; no scene is beautiful unless he can imagine destruction or ruin brooding over it. To his jaundiced eye everything which most people admire or es-teem is but a whited sepulcher, full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness, and every object in life, however harmless or innocent, appears to him to conceal some hidden danger, some man-trap or spring gun set to catch or wound the unwary.

The strange thing about worry is that it is so utterly illogical. The laughing philosopher who pronounced his dictum on worry so many years ago that his name and era have been forgotten was exactly right. He said that there are two classes of things that one should not worry over, the things that can be helped and the things that cannot—for, he said, if they can be helped, go and help them; if they cannot, worrying over them only makes them worse.

We read sometimes of men dying from overwork, especially those whose work is that of the brain. It is ninety-nine times out of a hundred a mistaken diagnosis. Men die of over-eating, of over-drinking, of over-indulgence in various ways, and, more frequently than all, of worry, but not of too much work. The brain is a tough and elastic organ, capable of almost any amount of work if it be treated properly; but when to work is superadded worry, the brain refuses to bear the double burden, and then ensues that surcease from labor which we call death. Work can be finished and put away: worry, never. Work produces fatigue: worry, exhaustion. Work, no matter how arduous or se-vere, does not detract from one's self-respect; worry makes him think as meanly of him-self as of all the rest of the world. We can bear disease, pain, ill-fortune, all the ills that flesh is heir to, if we do not worry; if we do, every molehill becomes a mountain, and every squeaking mouse a roaring lion in our path. Is not worry, then, the worst of all bad things—the one incurable disease, the malady which physic cannot heal nor science alleviate?

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