In a preceding chapter, I have shown that worry is a product of our modern civilization, and that it belongs only to the Occidental world. It is a modern disease, prevalent only among the so-called civilized peoples. There is no doubt that in many respects we are what we call ourselves—the most highly civilized people in the world. But do we not pay too high a price for much of our civilization? If it is such that it fails to enable us to conserve our health, our powers of enjoyment, our spontaneity, our mental vigor, our spirituality, and the exuberant radiance of our life—bodily, mental, spiritual—I feel that we need to examine it carefully and find out wherein lies its inadequacy or its insufficiency.
While our civilization has reached some very elevated points, and some men have made wonderful advancement in varied fields, it cannot be denied that the mass of men and women are still groping along in the darkness of mental mediocrity, and on the mud-flats of the commonplace. Ten thousand men and women can now read where ten alone read a few centuries ago. But what are the ten thousand reading? That which will elevate, improve, benefit? See the piles of sensational yellow novels, magazines, and newspapers that deluge us day by day, week by week, month by month, for the answer. True, there are many who desire the better forms of literature, and for these we give thanks; they are of the salt that saves our civilization.
I do not wish to seem, even, to be cynical or pessimistic, but when I look at some of the mental pabulum that our newspapers supply, I cannot but feel that we are making vast efforts to maintain the commonplace and dignify the trivial.
For instance: Look at the large place the Beauty Department of a newspaper occupies in the thoughts of thousands of women and girls. Instead of seeking to know what they should do to keep their bodies and minds healthful and vigorous, they are deeply concerned over their physical appearance. They write and ask questions that show how worried they are about their skin—freckles, pimples, discolorations, patches, etc.—their complexion, their hair, its color, glossiness, quantity, how it should be dressed, and a thousand and one things that clearly reveal the improper emphasis placed upon them. I do not wish to ignore the basic facts behind these anxious questionings. It is right and proper that women (and men also) should give due attention to their physical appearance.
But when it becomes a mere matter of the outward show of cosmetics, powders, rouges, washes, pencils, and things that affect the outside only, then the emphasis is in the wrong place, and we are worrying about the wrong thing. Our appearance is mainly the result of our physical and mental condition. If the body is healthy, the skin and hair will need no especial attention, and, indeed, every wise person knows that the application of many of the cosmetics, etc., commonly used, is injurious, if not positively dangerous.
Then, too, observation shows that too many women and girls go beyond reasonable attention to these matters and begin to worry over them. Once become slaves to worry, and every hour of the day some new irritant will arise.
Some new "dope" is advertised; some new fashion devised; some new frivolity developed. Vanity and worry now begin to vie with each other as to which shall annoy and vex, sting and irritate their victim the more. Each is a nightmare of a different breed, but no sooner does one bound from the saddle, before the other puts in an appearance and compels its victim to a performance. Only a thorough awakening can shake such nightmares off, and comparatively few have any desire to be awakened. I have watched such victims and they arouse in me both laughter and sadness. One is sure her hair is not the proper color to match her complexion and eyes. It must be dyed. Then follows the worries as to what dye she shall use, and methods of application. Invariably the results produce worry, for they are never satisfactory, and now she is worried while dressing, while eating, and when she goes out into the street, lest people notice that her hair is improperly dyed. Every stranger that looks at her adds to the worry, for it confirms her previous fears that she does not look all right. If she tries another hair of the dog that has already bitten her and allows the hair specialist to guide her again, she goes through more worries of similar fashion. She must treat her hair in a certain way to conform to prevailing styles—and so she worries hourly over a matter that, at the outside, should occupy her attention for a few minutes of each day.
There are men who are equally worried over their appearance. Their hair is not growing properly, or their ears are not the proper shape, or their ears are too large, or their hands are too rough, or their complexion doesn't match the ties they like to wear, or some equally foolish and nonsensical thing. Some wish to be taller, others not so tall; quite an army seeks to be thinner and another of equal numbers desires to be stouter; some wish they were blondes, and others that they were brunettes. The result is that drug-stores, beauty-parlors, and complexion specialists for men and women are kept busy all their time, robbing poor, hard-working creatures of their earnings because of insane worries that they are not appearing as well as they ought to do.
Clothing is a perpetual source of worry to thousands. They must keep up with the styles, the latest fashions, for to be "out of fashion," "a back number," gives them "a conniption fit." An out-of-date hat, or shirt-waist, jacket, coat, skirt, or shoe humiliates and distresses them more than would a violation of the moral law—provided it were undetected.
To these, my worrying friends, I continually put the question: Is it worth while? Is the game worth the shot? What do you gain for all your worry? Rest and peace of mind? Alas, no! If the worry and effort accomplished anything, I would be the last to deprecate it, but observation and experience have taught me that the more you yield to these demons of vanity and worry, the more relentlessly they harry you. They veritably are demons that seize you by the throat and hang on like grim death until they suffocate and strangle you.
Do you propose, therefore, any longer to submit? Are you wilfully and knowingly going to allow yourself to remain within their grasp? You have a remedy in your own hands. Kill your foolish vanity by determining to accept yourself as you are. All the efforts in the world will not make any changes worth while. Fix upon the habits of dress, etc., that good sense tells you are reasonable and in accord with your age, your position and your purse, and then follow them regardless of the fashion or the prevailing style. You know as well as I that, unless you are a near-millionaire, you cannot possibly keep up with the many and various changes demanded by current fashion. Then why worry yourself by trying? Why spend your small income upon the unattainable, or upon that which, even if you could attain it, you would find unsatisfying and incomplete? In your case, worry is certainly the result of mental inoccupancy. This is sometimes called "empty headedness," and while the term seems somewhat harsh and rough, it is pretty near the truth. If you spent one-tenth the amount of energy seeking to put something into your head that you spend worrying as to what you shall put on your head, and how to fix it up, your life would soon be far more different than you can now conceive.
Carelessness and laziness are both great causes of worry. The careless man, the lazy man are each indifferent as to how their work is done; such men seldom do well that which they undertake. Everything carelessly or lazily done is incomplete, inadequate, incompetent, and, therefore, a source of distress, discontent, and worry. A careless or lazy plumber causes much worry, for, even though his victims may have learned the lesson I am endeavoring to inculcate throughout these pages, it is a self-evident proposition that they will not allow his indifferent work to stand without correction. Therefore, the telephone bell calls continually, he or his men must go out and do the work again, and when pay-day comes, he fails to receive the check good work would surely have made forthcoming to him.
The schoolboy, schoolgirl, has to learn this lesson, and the sooner the better. The teacher never nags the careful and earnest student; only the lazy and careless are worried by extra lessons, extra recitals, impositions, and the like.
All through life carelessness and laziness bring worry, and he is a wise person who, as early as he discovers these vices in himself, seeks to correct or, better still, eliminate them.
Another form of worry is that wherein the worrier is sure that no one is to be relied upon to do his duty. Dickens, in his immortal Pickwick Papers, gives a forceful example of this type. Mr. Magnus has just introduced himself to Pickwick, and they find they are both going to Norwich on the same stage.
'Now, gen'lm'n,' said the hostler, 'Coach is ready, if you please.' 'Is all my luggage in?' inquired Magnus.
'All right, Sir.' 'Is the red bag in?' 'All right, Sir.' 'And the striped bag?' 'Fore boot, Sir.' 'And the brown-paper parcel?' 'Under the seat, Sir.' 'And the leathern hat-box?' 'They're all in, Sir.' 'Now will you get up?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Excuse me,' replied Magnus, standing on the wheel. 'Excuse me, Mr.
Pickwick, I cannot consent to get up in this state of uncertainty. I am quite satisfied from that man's manner, that that leather hat-box is not in.' The solemn protestations of the hostler being unavailing, the leather hatbox was obliged to be raked up from the lowest depth of the boot, to satisfy him that it had been safely packed; and after he had been assured on this head, he felt a solemn presentiment, first, that the red bag was mislaid, and next, that the striped bag had been stolen, and then that the brown-paper parcel had become untied. At length when he had received ocular demonstration of the groundless nature of each and every one of these suspicions, he consented to climb up to the roof of the coach, observing that now he had taken everything off his mind he felt quite comfortable and happy.
But this was only a temporary feeling, for as they journeyed along, every break in the conversation was filled up by Mr. Magnus's "loudly expressed anxiety respecting the safety and well-being of the two bags, the leather hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel." Of course, this is an exaggerated picture, yet it properly suggests and illustrates this particular, senseless form of worry, with which we are all more or less familiar. In business, such a worrier is a constant source of irritation to all with whom he comes in contact, either as inferior or superior. To his inferiors, his worrying is a bedeviling influence that irritates and helps produce the very incapacity for attention to detail that is required; and to superiors, it is a sure sign of incompetency. Experience demonstrates that such an one is incapable of properly directing any great enterprise. Men must be trusted if you would bring out their capacities. Their work should be specifically laid out before them; that is, that which is required of them; not, necessarily, in minute detail, but the general results that are to be achieved. Then give them their freedom to work the problems out in their own way. Give them responsibility, trust them, and then leave them alone. Quit your worrying about them. Give them a fair chance, expect, demand results, and if they fail, fire them and get those who are more competent. Mistrust and worry in the employer lead to uncertainty and worry in the employee and these soon spell out failure.
In subsequent chapters, various worries are discussed, with their causes and cures. One thing I cannot too strongly and too often emphasize, and that is, that the more one studies the worries referred to, he is compelled to see the great truth of the proverb, "More of our worries come from within than from without." In other words, we make more of our worries, by worrying, than are made for us by the cares of life. This fact in itself should lead us to be suspicious of every worry that besets us.
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