How insulting! What a ridiculous statement! How ignorant of our achievements! I can well imagine some of my readers saying when they see this chapter heading. This, an age of worry! Why this is the age of progress, of advancement, of uplift, of the onward march of a great and wonderful civilization.
Is it? Certainly it is! See what we have done in electricity, look at the telephone, telegraph, wireless and now the wireless telephone. See our advancement in mechanics,—the automobile, the new locomotives, vessels, etc. See our conquest of the air—dirigibles, aeroplanes, hydroplanes and the like.
Yes! I see, and what of it? We have done, our advancement, our conquest, etc., etc. Yes! I see we have not lessened our arrogance, our empty-headed pride, our boasting. We—Why "we"? What have you and I had to do with the new inventions in electricity or mechanics or the conquest of the air? Not one single, solitary thing! The progress of the world has been made through the efforts of a few solitary, exceptional, rare individuals, not by the combined efforts of us all. You and I are as common, unprogressive, uninventive, indifferent mediocrities as we—the common people—always were. We have not contributed one iota to all this progress, and I often question whether mud; of it comes to us more fraught with good than evil. We claim the results without engaging in the work. We use the 'phone and worry because Central doesn't get us our connections immediately, when we haven't the faintest conception of how the connection is gained, or why we are delayed. We ride on the fast train, but chafe and worry ourselves and everybody about us to a frazzle because we are stopped on a siding by a semaphore of a block station which we never have observed, and would not understand if we did. We reap but have not sowed, gather but have not strewed, and that is ever injurious and never beneficial. Our conceit is flattered and enlarged, our importance magnified, our "dignity"—God save the mark!—made more impressive, and as a result, we are more the target for the inconsequential worries of life. We worry if we are not flattered, if our importance is not recognized even by strangers, and our dignity not honored—in other words we worry that we are not kow-towed to, deferred to, respectfully greeted on every hand and made to feel that civilization, progress and advancement are materially furthered and enhanced by our mere existence.
Every individual with such an outlook on life is a prolific distributer of worry germs; he, she, is a pest and a nuisance, more disturbing to the real peace of the community than a victim of smallpox, and one who should be isolated in a pesthouse.
But, unfortunately, our myopic vision sees only the wealth, the luxury, the spending capacity of such an individual, and that ends it—we bow down and worship before the golden calf.
If I had the time in these pages to discuss the history of worry, I am assured I could show clearly to the student of history that worry is always the product of prosperity; that while a nation is hard at work at its making, and every citizen is engaged in arduous labor of one kind or another for the upbuilding of his own or the national power, worry is scarcely known. The builders of our American civilization were too busy conquering the wilderness of New England, the prairies of the Middle West, the savannahs and lush growths of the South, the arid deserts of the West to have much time for worry. Such men and women were gifted with energy, the power of initiative and executive ability, they were forceful, daring, courageous and active, and in their very working had neither time nor thought for worry.
But just as soon as a reasonable amount of success attended their efforts, and they had amassed wealth their children began and continued to worry. Not occupied with work that demands our unceasing energy, we find ourselves occupied with trifles, worrying over our health, our investments, our luxuries, our lap-dogs and our frivolous occupations. Imagine the old-time pioneers of the forest, plain, prairie and desert worrying about sitting in a draught, or taking cold if they got wet, or wondering whether they could eat what would be set before them at the next meal. They were out in the open, compelled to take whatever weather came to them, rain or shine, hot or cold, sleet or snow, and ready when the sunset hour came, to eat with relish and appetite sauce, the rude and plain victuals placed upon the table.
Compare the lives of that class of men with the later generation of "capitalists." I know one who used to live at Sherry's in New York. His apartments were as luxurious as those of a monarch; he was not happy, however, for worry rode him from morning to night. He absolutely spent an hour or more each day consulting the menu, or discussing with the steward what he could have to place upon his menu, and died long before his time, cursed with his wealth, its resultant idleness and the trifling worries that always come to such men. Had he been reduced to poverty, compelled to go out and work on a farm, eat oatmeal mush or starve for breakfast, bacon and greens for dinner, and cold pork and potatoes or starve for supper, he would be alive and happy to-day.
Take the fussy, nervous, irritable, worrying men and women of life, who poke their noses into other people's affairs, retail all the scandal, and hand on all the slander and gossip of empty and, therefore, evil minds. They are invariably well to do and without any work or responsibilities. They go gadding about restless and feverish because of the empty vacuity of their lives, a prey to worry because they have nothing else to do. If I were to put down and faithfully report the conversations I have with such people; the fool worries they are really distressed with; the labor, time and energy they spend on following chimeras, will o' the wisps, mirages that beckon to them and promise a little mental occupation,—and over which they cannot help but worry, one could scarcely believe it.
As Dr. Walton forcefully says in his admirable booklet: The present, then, is the age, and our contemporaries are the people, that bring into prominence the little worries, that cause the tempest in the teapot, that bring about the worship of the intangible, and the magnification of the unessential. If we had lived in another epoch we might have dreamt of the eternal happiness of saving our neck, but in this one we fret because our collar does not fit it, and because the button that holds the collar has rolled under the bureau.[A] [Footnote A: Calm Yourself. By George Lincoln Walton, M.D., Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, Mass.] I am not so foolish as to imagine for one moment that I can correct the worrying tendency of the age, but I do want to be free from worry myself, to show others that it is unnecessary and needless, and also, that it is possible to live a life free from its demoralizing and altogether injurious influences.
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