I found this gem in an old naturopathic journal at school. May it bring you as many smiles as it brought me!
by Edward Earle Purinton
The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XIV (3), 170-174. (1909)
The only man-made concoction worth the bother is a cooked-up smile.
And I suppose our earnest friends of the raw-food proletariat would take offense even at this. Indeed, to look at some of their faces we must conclude that anything with a flavor of humor to it disagrees with their strange constitution. Verily, smiles that be fresh are sweeter and wholesomer than evaporated smiles taken out of storage. But the season of natural smiles is so short—they are planted before birth, they blossom in babyhood, bear fruit in childhood, scatter their seeds on the winds of hope, and to the eager grasp of weeping men and women yield only empty husks of memory. He has provided most for his soul who has saved his smile unimpaired from babyhood.
The simple science of optimism is more important to the welfare of the human race than all the mouldy textbooks piled helter-skelter in the labored curriculum of the world’s greatest colleges. The final test for wisdom is to exchange in a moment a tear for a smile, or a smile for a tear, and to find each as precious as the other. Tears are but smiles in solution, and we are not skilled in the chemistry of the soul until we can transform every drop of sorrow into a bit of joy firm enough to endure. There never was a tear but a smile lay in its depths, and they who waste their tears are throwing away their riches.
Now the distinguishing feature of a cook-book is that the second syllable doesn’t count. People who are born cooks do it without the book—and people who aren’t make a mess of it, anyhow—this regardless of the merit in the recipe or the ingredient. So in preserving the fruit of optimism we should hold the cook responsible for success or failure in the undertaking. The burnt smile of the cynic, the pickled smile of the pessimist, the stale smile of the drone, the watery smile of the sentimentalist, not one of these grew so, but each was made so by the ignorance or artifice or malice of a human agency. Evaporated smiles, like evaporated fruits, have their flavor best brought out by a pinch of salt or a dash of lemon—the saline of experience, the acid of disappointment. And the smile that you feel lacks character was prepared by a novice in life.
Here is a recipe for preserved optimism out of the note-book of one who has tried it: Pluck a smile from the tree of innocence before earth-life has spotted its cheek, leave it high in a sheltered place where the sun of sympathy falls upon it, pack it tight with its shrunken fellows deep in the press of a human hold, shatter its case when the soul is starving, snatch the hardened shapeless morsel, soften it well in a ferment of tears, drain it clear of its quickening moisture, sugar it over with aspiration, then just taste how refreshing it is while you watch the fire of human need die to a cinder. For the anguish that stirs in our scalding tears will restore life to a smile if we know how to bring them together.
And the gist of the parable, stripped of its rhetoric, runs like this: That he alone is master who can summon a smile at will and have it do his bidding. One by one the crises of life narrow down to a single problem: Can we see the beautiful outcome—or, not seeing, can we trust? And whichever the answer, a smile goes with it. Only the joys we have consciously earned are ours to keep. That is why the pleasures of childhood vanish so soon. That is why the miseries of manhood remain so long. That is why the numbness of old age is divinely ordained to make us forget our failures at happiness and once more enter the Larger Life with the spirit of hope in command. Any pleasure we are able and willing to pay for is ours forever. Optimists are the creditors—pessimists the debtors—in the savings bank of Life.
Sanity consists in smiling twice in the same place—once without looking and once with the eyes open. There is no merit in being either a happy child or a wise parent; the virtue is in adding to what a parent knows all that a child believes. He is wise who smiles in the face of Death, weeps in the lap of Life, and stands unmoved in the presence of Eternity. Such a one must be man, woman, child, altogether. And a radiance immortal blends the smile with a vision until wherever we look we greet a golden dawn.
Here are some ways to get hold of a baby laugh when we need it the most of anything.
1. Touch anybody’s heart.
I think the smile of sympathy is the only one with a taste of immortality. Really, to be downcast is a proof of insufferable conceit; we have turned to explore our own shadow instead of keeping to the sunlit path ahead. We suffer that we may understand, but when we do understand we lose our own sorrow in lifting the burden of others. Feeling that is genuine both precedes and concludes Fate. Find the dear, sad, hopeful human heart of people and you grasp the divine incentive whose promise ensures mastery of all adverse conditions.
2. Think how much worse it might be.
A good way to provide everlastingly against depression is to enumerate the worst misfortunes that could possibly happen, and prepare in your mind a remedy. Death? Death is only a secret passage into the mansions of Life. Dishonor? The possession of character renders dishonor a myth. Friendlessness? We are always lonely until we claim the birds and stars and flowers our next of kin. Poverty? Fast thirty days, as I have done, and smile at the folly of eating, cooking, marketing, polishing silver and scrubbing kettles and giving such trumpery good house-room. Old Age? But when it comes we shall be in our second childhood, we shall muse and prattle, and laugh with the fairies, and forgetting how stupid we were to grow up we shall again know ourselves blessed babies forever. Whatever the cause of anxiety, the cure lies in the soul. Discover the soul and have the secret of perennial youth.
3. Count your blessings.
Of course they aren’t really blessings, because you have earned them every one. But until we have the courage to realize we must earn them, God lets us think of them as gifts. The greatest blessing is just to be alive—and unless we feel it so we aren’t alive. This beautiful, terrible, stupendous thing within us that makes us go on and get perfect whether we will or not—to thank God for that is the ultimate of recognition. For in the end divinity appears just the strength to endure, and having won that the glorious ministry of angels is at our command through eternity.
4. Listen closer.
The violation of instinct, the neglect of intuition, the repression of emotion, or the barring of inspiration, constitute the source of all human worries. And the proverbial happiness of childhood is due to the fact that the finer voices of the soul have not yet been choked dumb by the harsh, cold, cruel hand of civilization. The one cure for regret is refinement. Nothing can disappoint us, nobody can fail us, if we have held the right relation toward that person or that thing. Peace resolves to a nicety of adjustment between the soul and the materials it works with. Fiction? Too little soul, or too much soul in one place. Get clear within and you own a cloudless horizon.
5. Turn around and walk the other way.
This means for gentlemen to cultivate frau-frous and chocolate fudge, while the ladies talk politics and whittle without biting their tongues or cutting their fingers off. The farther you go in the only straight path, the worse tangled up you get. Are you sentimental? Acquire sand. Are you religious? Embark in the test-tube business. Are you logical? Do something utterly foolish. Are you metaphysical? Become a stock-breeder. Are you horribly serious and freezingly good? Go see Chinatown with Chuck Conners. Whatever you are—or were before you knew better—forget it and have a smile of relief on yourself.
6. Work up a sweat.
You wouldn’t believe it until you had tried, that cobwebs on the brain can be swept out quickest through the pores of the body. But this is a fact you may prove any time. Much that passes for poetry is megrim, and many folk who call themselves “spiritual” are so thick in miasma they can’t read their own names to mansions in the skies. Healthy animals never keep a worry over night—and if we refuse to be healthy animals we had better get off the earth. Your brain needs a rest? Put all your soul into your muscle. You have the fidgets? Get absorbed in your lungs, which are the centers of liberty. You wear blue spectacles and you wish you didn’t? Join a gymnasium and evolve some idiotic flip-flaps for the entertainment of the irreverent populace. Buy a buck-saw and become a sociological tramp. Take boxing lessons and be thumped over the head by somebody who doesn’t know half as much as you. Hire a “rubber” in a Turkish bath to pummel you till you call for help. Dance a jig in the woodshed, do a sprint by stealth under cover of night, get mad and throw things, chase a cat, maul the cook, or castigate the butcher-boy.
7. Sandpaper your “sense of duty.”
A cat is not a noble bird. A cat has “feelers.” All people that have moral feelers are ignoble animals. This is the kind of logic they taught us at college, and I trust you are impressed with its aplomb. A “sense of duty” serves creepy humans the same purpose a set of hirsute antennae does their feline relative. Anybody moved by his sense of duty is either a ninny or a coward. The only thing a fellow ought to do is to do what he ought not to. The quicker you realize the ethics of this proceeding—which we haven’t space to explain here—the sooner you’ll smile good and plenty.
8. Read the funny papers.
Especially at meal-time and during a visit from your doting relatives. Anybody who dotes is dotty. If he’s out of hearing we may laugh at him, but if he’s circumambient we’ve got to laugh anyhow, so we must laugh with him. People are such caricatures on themselves—haven’t you noticed it? And Mr. Dooley is quite as true a delineator of life as Lord Sri Krishna ever dared be—although they differ somewhat in style. The idea of justice is a joke—the idea of a joke is justice. Thus the breadth of our understanding centers at last in the point of our humor. I have always envied the king’s jester his easy job—because a king just to look at is enough to make a fellow laugh himself to death. The funniest thing on earth is any sort of complete paraphernalia. And we’re all of us wearing a set in the eyes of our neighbors.
9. Have a good cry.
Particularly if you are a man—and absurdly proud of the fact. I think men display their chronic obtuseness nowhere so violently as in refusing to consider the downright luxury of a protracted weep. Nothing but the air of a desert will dry a woman’s tears—and you know we cannot live in a desert. Emotional waste is the inevitable precursor of spiritual calm. Such a multitude of psychic films, moral masks, mental veils, and intuitional draperies hide us from ourselves that nothing short of an emotional cyclone can distinguish us from our swathings. To cry on a woman’s breast and seek new inspiration is the manliest thing a man can do. The hardest thing in life is the lip that quivers but will never give way. Don’t be ashamed to break down and have it out—if at the close you stand straighter.
10. Borrow a baby to play with.
There is no real tragedy to a woman but to feel that her time for having babies is past. And if none has been given her, then the whole of life is a tragedy. We are all mothers in our hearts—if we are anything worth while. And nothing makes us so happy as to croon and dream and smile over a dimpled mite of humanity unaware of its own greatness. Every children’s game is a lesson for grown-ups. And the varieties of life are established in our consciousness only as we rival the little ones in their frank simplicity of joyousness and faith. If we mother the world we can forgive it anything. Because then we know the world never meant to do wrong, it was only ignorant, impulsive, unprepared to use itself. So we give it a smile and a summons back.
11. Go on a mild spree of extravagance.
The only time it’s natural to be perfectly contented is when one hasn’t a cent in the world. For then one has oneself, and that is everything. If ladies earned the money they shop with, throwing it away would be a highly moral act. But as things are the solitary virtue of the arrangement occurs Saturday night, when the wage-earning man practices the doctrine of nonattachment on half his salary before his wife has a chance to demonstrate her disbelief in non-interference. To grow happy all of a sudden, try cutting off another needless thing. Seeing how much one can do without is a most profitable exercise. The secret of satisfaction is to want less not more—and by the time you’ve found out what this means you’ll have forgotten all your other troubles.
12. Praise yourself some.
And the less you deserve it the more you need it. You can do this by thinking what a fool you were yesterday—and what a wise man you will be tomorrow; then repeat daily, ad infinitum. Never compare you with your neighbors, but only you with your former self. Deductions must be consoling, since there is no going backward anywhere in cosmos. And the very fact that we analyze our motives denotes their improvement. Our schooling of self should be relentless—if we take a frequent recess to play in the sun with our good fairy.
13. Do the hard thing.
There is no humor in this—but there is much joy after. Men do not laugh at sweat and blood and the uncut path of the pioneer. But only they that have trod the virgin forest and garrisoned the lonely outposts of Truth realize the sweetness of a human home-coming. What makes us weep most is what we have oftenest failed to conquer. And the greatest perils we escape when we resolve to make a headlong plunge into divine possibility. A will that nothing on earth can swerve is the ultimate instrument of godhood enfleshed.
14. Run away and hide in your dream.
This is not being cowardly—if it is don’t do it. But there may be such a thing as striving too incessantly; and whenever our soul-sinews declare a feeling of strain, it is time to let go, to watch the world pass in review, to smile at the babel of anxious toilers, to seek repose in the vast domain of dusk, to tell the stars all about it and sleep with their benediction while earth is tossed just the same on the infinite ocean of space. Music bears us best to the mystic land serene. And the thrill in the delicate role of a poignant symphony is God’s own whisper to stir the soul attuned.
15. Love more.
Did you ever hear a plaint of the birds or a protest of the flowers or a curse evoked by the sea? Whoever, whatever, expresses fully, unafraid, unashamed, acknowledged, secured, poised and resourceful, attains therein a sense of elation that lifts the soul clear of its earth-trammels and places it in a sphere where life is a song of rhapsody unending. Overflow yourself with your soul and the points of human irritation melt away. Breathe with a spiritual buoyancy and you smile as you take firm hold on immortality. Love infinitely and eternally you rejoice.