Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!
(J. R. Miller, "Taking Cheerful Views" 1880)
"A cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15
"A cheerful heart is good medicine; but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
One of the divinest secrets of a happy life–is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance. We must develop the habit of looking on the bright side. This is a magic-wand whose power exceeds that of any fabled magician’s to change all things into blessings. Those who take cheerful views, find happiness everywhere; and yet how rare is the habit! The multitude prefer to walk on the dark side of the paths of life.
There are those who take to gloom–as a bat to darkness, or as a vulture to carrion! They would rather nurse a misery–than nourish a joy. They always find the dark side of everything, if there is a dark side to be found. They appear to be conscientious grumblers, as if it were their duty to extract some essence of misery from every circumstance! The weather is either too cold or too hot; too wet or too dry. They never find anything to their taste. Nothing escapes their criticism. They find fault with the food on the table, with the bed in which they lie, with the railroad-train or steamboat on which they travel, with the government and its officials, with merchant and workman–in a word, with the world at large and in detail.
They are chronic grumblers! Instead of being content in the state in which they are–they have learned to be discontented, no matter how happy their lot! If they had been placed in the Garden of Eden–they would have discovered something with which to find fault! Their wretched habit empties life of all possible joy–and turns every cup to gall.
On the other hand, there are rare people who always take cheerful views of life. They look at the bright side. They find some joy and beauty everywhere. If the sky is covered with clouds–they will point out to you the splendor of some great cloud-bank piled up like mountains of glory. When the storm rages, instead of fears and complaints–they find an exquisite pleasure in contemplating its grandeur and majesty. In the most faulty picture–they see some bit of beauty which charms them. In the most disagreeable person–they discover some kindly trait or some bud of promise. In the most disheartening circumstances, they find something for which to be thankful, some gleam of cheer breaking in through the thick gloom!
When a ray of sunlight streamed through a crack in the shutter, and made a bright patch on the floor in the darkened room–the little dog rose from his dark corner, and went and lay down in the one sunny spot; and these cheerful people live in the same way. If there is one beam of cheer or hope anywhere in their lot–they will find it! They have a genius for happiness. They always make the best out of circumstances. Their good nature never fails. They take a cheerful view of every perplexity. Such people have a wondrous ministry in this world. They are like apple trees when covered with blossoms, pouring a sweet fragrance all around them.
It may be worth while to linger a little, on the philosophy of living which produces such results.
Some people are born with sunny dispositions, with large hopefulness and joyfulness, and with eyes for the bright side of life. Others are naturally disposed to gloom. Yet, it is still largely a matter of culture and habit, for which we are individually responsible. Like the apostle Paul, we can train ourselves to take cheerful views of life, and to extract contentment and enjoyment from any circumstances.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again–Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. This is clearly a most important part of Christian culture.
Joyfulness is everywhere commended as a Christian duty.
Discontent is a most detestable fault.
Morbidness is a sin.
Fretfulness grieves God. It tells of unbelief. It destroys the soul’s peace. It disfigures the beauty of Christian character. It not only makes us soured and unhappy in our own hearts–but its influence on others is bad.
We have no right to project the gloom of our discontent–over any other life. Our attitude is to be ever towards joy. There is nothing so depressing in its effect upon others, as morbidness!
True contentment does not chafe under disappointments and losses–but accepts them, becomes reconciled to them, and at once looks about to find something good in them.
This is the secret of happy living!
And when we come to think of it–how senseless it is to struggle against the inevitable! Discontent helps nothing. It never removes a hardship, or makes a burden any lighter, or brings back a vanished pleasure. One never feels better, for complaining. It only makes him wretched!
A starling in a cage struggles against its fate, flies against the wire walls, and beats upon them in efforts to be free–until its wings are all bruised and bleeding!
A canary is shut in another cage, accepts the restraint, perches itself upon its bar and sings.
Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!