The Cure for Americanitis



            Prince Wolkonsky, during a visit to this country, declared that "Business is the alpha and omega of American life. There is no pleasure, no joy, no satisfaction. There is no standard except that of profit. There is no other country where they speak of a man as worth so many dollars. In other countries they live to enjoy life; here they exist for business." A Boston merchant corroborated this statement by saying he was anxious all day about making money, and worried all night for fear he should lose what he had made.


            "In the United States," a distinguished traveller once said, "there is everywhere comfort, but no joy. The ambition of getting more and fretting over what is lost absorbs life."


            "Every men we meet looks as if he'd gone out to borrow trouble, with plenty of it at hand," said a French lady, upon arriving in New York.


            "The Americans are the best-fed, the best-clad, and the best-housed people in the world," says another witness, "but they are the most anxious; they hug possible calamity to their breasts."


            "I question if care and doubt ever wrote their names so legibly on the faces of any other population," says Emerson; "old age begins in the nursery."             How quickly we Americans exhaust life! With what panting haste we pursue everything! Every man you meet seems to be late for an appointment. Hurry is stamped in the wrinkles of the national face. We are men of action; we go faster and faster as the years go by, speeding our machinery to the utmost. Bent forms, prematurely grey hair, restlessness and discontent, are characteristic of our age and people. We earn our bread, but cannot digest it; and our over-stimulated nerves soon become irritated, and touchiness follows, - so fatal to a businessman, and so annoying in society.


            "It is not work that kills men," says Beecher; "it is worry. Work is healthy; you can hardly put more on a man than he can bear. But worry is rust upon the blade. It is not movement that destroys the machinery, but friction."


            It is not so much the great sorrows, the great burdens, the great hardships, the great calamities, that cloud over the sunshine of life, as the little petty vexations, insignificant anxieties and fear, the little daily dyings, which render our lives unhappy, and destroy our mental elasticity, without advancing our lifework one inch. "Anxiety never yet bridged any chasm."


            "What," asks Dr. George W. Jacoby, in an "Evening Post" interview, "is the ultimate physical effect of worry? Why, the same as that of a fatal bullet-wound or sword-thrust. Worry kills as surely, though not so quickly, as ever gun or dagger did, and more people have died in the last century from sheer worry than have been killed in battle."


            Dr. Jacoby is one of the foremost of American brain doctors, "The investigations of the neurologists," he says, "have laid bare no secret of Nature in recent years more startling and interesting than the discovery that worry kills." This is the final, up-to-date word. "Not only is it known," resumes the great neurologist, counting off his words, as it were, on his fingertips, "that worry kills, but the most minute details of its murderous methods are familiar to modern scientists. It is a common belief of those who have made a special study of the science of brain diseases that hundreds of deaths attributed to other causes each year are due simply to worry. In plain, untechnical language, worry works its irreparable injury through certain cells of the brain life. The insidious inroads upon the system can be best likened to the constant falling of drops of water in one spot. In the brain it is the insistent, never-lost idea, the single, constant thought, centred upon one subject, which in the course of time destroys the brain cells. The healthy brain can cope with occasional worry; it is the iteration and reiteration of disquieting thoughts, which the cells of the brain cannot successfully combat.


            "The mechanical effect of worry is much the same as if the skull were laid bare and the brain exposed to the action of a little hammer beating continually upon it day after day, until the membranes are disintegrated and the normal functions disabled. The maddening thought that will not be downed, the haunting, ever-present idea that is not or cannot be banished by a supreme effort of the will, is the theoretical hammer which diminishes the vitality of the sensitive nerve organisms, the minuteness of which makes them visible to the eye only under a powerful microscope. The 'worry,' the thought, the single idea grows upon one as time goes on, until the worry victim cannot throw it off. Through this, one set or area of cells is affected. The cells are intimately connected, joined together by little fibres, and they in turn are in close relationship with the cells of the other parts of the brain.   


            "Worry is itself a species of monomania. No mental attitude is more disastrous to personal achievement, personal happiness, and personal usefulness in the world, than worry and its twin brother, despondency. The remedy for the evil lies in training the will to cast off cares and seek a change of occupation, when the first warning is sounded by Nature in intellectual lassitude. Relaxation is the certain foe of worry, and 'don't fret' one of the healthiest of maxims."


            In a life of constant worrying, we are as much behind the times as if we were to go back to use the first steam engines that wasted ninety per cent of the energy of the coal, instead of having an electric dynamo that utilises ninety per cent of the power. Some people waste a large percentage of their energy in fretting and stewing, in useless anxiety, in scolding, in complaining about the weather and the perversity of inanimate things. Others convert nearly all of their energy into power and moral sunshine. He who has learned the true art of living will not waste his energies in friction, which accomplishes nothing, but merely grinds out the machinery of life.


            It must be relegated to the debating societies to determine which is the worse - A Nervous Man or A Worrying Woman

A Worrying Woman


            "I'm awfully worried this morning, said one woman. What is it?" "Why, I thought of something to worry about last night, and now I can't remember it."


            A famous actress once said: "Worry is the foe of all beauty." She might have added: "It is the foe to all health."


            "It seems so heartless in me, if I do not worry about my children," said one mother.


            Women nurse their troubles, as they do their babies. "Troubles grow larger," said Lady Holland, "by nursing."


            The White Knight, who carried about a mousetrap, lest he be troubled with mice upon his journeys, was not unlike those who anticipate their burdens.


            "He grieves," says Seneca, more than is necessary, who grieves before it is necessary."


            "My children," said a dying man, "during my long life I have had a great many troubles, most of which never happened." A prominent businessman in Philadelphia said that his father worried for twenty-five years over an anticipated misfortune, which never arrived.


            We try to grasp too much of life at once; since we think of it as a whole, instead of living one day at a time. Life is a mosaic, and each tiny piece must be cut and set with skill, first one piece, then another.


            A clock would be of no use as a time-keeper if it should become discouraged and come to a standstill by calculating its work a year ahead, as the clock did in Jane Taylor's fable. It is not the troubles of today, but those of tomorrow and next week and next year, that whiten our heads, wrinkle our faces, and bring us to a standstill.


            "There is such a thing," said Uncle Eben, "as too much foresight. People get to figuring what might happen year after next, and let the fire go out and catch their death of cold, right where they are."


            Nervous prostration is seldom the result of present trouble or work, but of work and trouble anticipated. Mental exhaustion comes to those who look ahead, and climb mountains before reaching them. Resolutely build a wall about today, and live within the inclosure. The past may have been hard, sad, or wrong, - but it is over.


            Why not take a turn about? Instead of worrying over unforeseen misfortune, set out with all your soul to rejoice in the unforeseen blessings of all your coming days. "I find the gayest castles in the air that were ever piled," says Emerson, "far better for comfort and for use than the dungeons in the air that are daily dug and cavern out by grumbling, discontented people."

            What is this world but as you take it? Thackeray calls the world a looking glass that gives back the reflection of one's own face. "Frown at it, and it will look sourly upon you; laugh at it, and it is a jolly companion."


            "There is no use in talking." said a woman. "Every time I move, I vow I'll never move again. Such neighbours as I get in with! Seems as though they grow worse and worse." "Indeed?" replied her caller; "perhaps you take the worst neighbour with you when you move."


            "In the sudden thunderstorm of independence Day," says a news correspondent, "we were struck by the contrast between two women, each of whom had had some trying experience with the weather. One came through the rain and hail to take refuge at the railway station, under the swaying and uncertain shelter of an escorting man's umbrella. Her skirts were soaked to the keens, her pink ribbons were limp, the purple of the flowers on her hat ran in streaks down the white silk. And yet, though she was a poor girl and her holiday finery must have been relatively costly, she made the best of it with a smile and cheerful words. The other was well sheltered; but she took the disappointment of her hopes and the possibility of a little spattering from a leaky window with frowns and fault-finding."


            "Cries little Miss Fret, In a very great pet;
            I hate this warm weather; it's horrid to tan
            It scorches my nose, And it blisters my toes,
            And wherever I go I must carry a fan.'
            "Chirps little Miss Laugh: 'Why, I could not tell-half
            The fun I am having this bright summer day !
            I sing through the hours, I cull pretty flowers.
            And ride like a queen on the sweet-smelling hay.


            Happily a new era has of late opened for our worried housekeepers, who spend their time in "the half-frantic dusting of corners, spasmodic sweeping, impatient snatching or pushing aside obstacles in the room, hurrying and scurrying upstairs and down cellar." "It is not," says Prentice Mulford, "the work that exhausts them, - it is the mental condition they are in that makes so many old and haggard at forty." All that is needful now to ease up their burdens is to go to Our Hawaiian Paradise

Our Hawaiian Paradise


            A newspaper correspondent, Annie Laurie, has told us all about the new kind of American girls just added to our country: -


            "They are as straight as an arrow, and walk as queens walk in fair stories; they have great braids of sleek, black hair, soft brown eyes, and gleaming white teeth; they can swim and ride and sing; and they are brown with a skin that shines like bronze . . . . There is not a worried woman in Hawaii. The women there can't worry. They don't know how. They eat and sing and laugh, and see the Sun and the moon set, and possess their souls in smiling peace.

            "If a Hawaii woman has a good dinner, she laughs and invites her friends to eat it with her; if she has not a good dinner, she laughs and goes to sleep, - and forgets to be hungry. She does not have to worry about what the people in the downstairs flat will think if they don't see the butcher's boy arrive on time. If she can earn the money, she buys a nice, new, glorified Mother Hubbard; and, if she can't get it, she throws the old one into the surf and washes it out, puts a new wreath of fresh flowers in her hair, and starts out to enjoy the morning and the breezes thereof.


            "They are not earnest workers; they haven't the slightest idea that they were put upon earth to reform the universe, - they're just happy. They run across great stretches of clear, white sand, washed with resplendent purple waves, and, when the little brown babies roll in the surf, their brown mothers run after them, laughing and splashing like a lot of children. Or, perhaps we see them in gay cavalcades mounted upon garlanded ponies, adorned by white jasmine wreaths with roses and pinks. And here in this paradise of laughter and light hearts and gentle music, there's absolutely nothing to do but to care for the children and old people and to swim or ride. You could not start a 'reform circle' to save your life; there is not a jail in the place, nor a tenement quarter, and there are no outdoor poor. There is not a woman's club in Honolulu, - not a club. There was a culture circle once for a few days; a Boston woman who went there for her health organised it, but it interfered with afternoon nap-time, so nobody came."


            When, hereafter, we talk about worrying women, we must take into account our Hawaiian sisters, if we will average up the amount of worry per capita in our nation.

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