“Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness and its power of endurance” (Thomas Carlyle).
CHEERFULNESS IS SUCH A DELIGHT, WE WISH WE COULD PRESERVE IT, LIKE STRAWBERRIES AND PEACHES, TO BE ENJOYED LATER ON. It seems a shame that good cheer is so plentiful during the holidays yet so rare the rest of the year.
In a way, of course, it’s good that some seasons are cheerful while others are more workmanlike. Shakespeare was right when he said: “If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work.” We need rhythms and cycles in life, not constant sameness.
Still, most of us could do with a little more day-in-day-out cheerfulness, and the good news is that we can have it if we try. We can cultivate a more hopeful way of thinking so that cheerfulness becomes what Joseph Addison called “a habit of the mind.”
To do this, we need to train ourselves. We must learn to look at life through a lens with a wider angle. True cheerfulness doesn’t mean being a Pollyanna, foolishly or naively optimistic, and it doesn’t mean denying the ugly realities of life. What it does mean is that we look at more of the truth than that. Whatever uncheerful things there may be, these things are not all there is to reality. There are also joyous things, things that do much more than even the score. The cheer-giving realities happen to be greater and more durable than their cheerless counterparts. Montaigne was not wide of the mark when he said, “The most manifest sign of wisdom is continued cheerfulness.”
It is true that some people, by their natural disposition, find it easier than others to be cheerful (just as some find it easier than others to sing on key, hit baseballs, and program computers). But all of us, whether “good-natured” or not, can maintain faith, and we can exercise courage. We can learn the habit of looking at life more comprehensively. And at this season of the year, we can indeed preserve the cheerfulness of the holidays and carry these joys with us into the weeks of work that lie ahead. It’s just a matter of being thankful.
“Since Time is not a person we can overtake when he is gone, let us honor him with mirth and cheerfulness of heart while he is passing” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).