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.