In keeping with my New Year’s resolution to read 25 books in 2009, the first one I completed was “Cheerfulness as a Life Power” by Orison Swett Marden. It was first written in 1899. It’s one of those books that you can download for free from http://gutenberg.org. It’s all about the importance of cheer, optimism, a glad heart, smiling, laughter, singing, and the positive effect all forms of mirth and merriment have on human health.
The book is over 100 years old, so some of the examples are dated. The average American living in the twenty-first century may not be familiar with people like Lyman Beecher, John Wanamaker, Peter Cooper, or Dwight Moody, and the author refers to them constantly. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Edison, and Abraham Lincoln are among the more recognizable figures quoted in the book.
Still, the point gets across, and is a message we need to hear now more than ever: a positive attitude can get you far in life and laughter truly is the best medicine.
What I’ve taken with me from this book is a re-commitment to positivity. I blogged almost a year ago admonishing readers to “Smile During an Argument”. I believe I got that piece of advice from the classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Cheerfulness is written in the same spirit. In fact, 90% or more of the wisdom in all the self-help books ever written can be found in the works of this author, Marden, who did most of his writing before World War I. For example, in the 2005 book/DVD The Secret, a woman recounts how she cured her cancer by watching funny movies for hours on end and laughing hysterically as much as possible. Sounds innovative, but remember that a century earlier, Marden devoted a section each to “The Laugh Cure” and to laughter as “A Cheap Medicine.”
Marden wrote a few other books besides Cheerfulness, namely How to Succeed, Pushing to the Front, An Iron Will, and Architects of Fate. All of them and more are available for free on the Web.
I know everything isn’t for everybody, and it is possible to gain this same wisdom without reading any of the books I’ve read. But if anyone can be helped along in their spiritual and mental advancement by my recommendations, it’s all worthwhile.