5.52.4: Lesson 52 — American Literature

Welcome to Year 5 of your American English studies with Maestro Sersea.  Throughout this year, we will cover a variety of American literary genres. You are encouraged to listen, read along, and discuss each American text you are assigned each week. 

We are now reading several

Four Minute Essays

Dr. Frank Crane

Volume X

Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc.
New York Chicago

Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen
By Dr. Frank Crane

Directions: Please read, then share your insights and what you learned in the comments section below.


“How,” writes a lady to me, “can I remove the following difficulties from my path?

“How can I overcome the lazy habit of oversleeping in the morning—laziness in general, in fact?

“How can I overcome the fear and worry habit?

“How can I ‘let go’ of the thoughts of past disappointments, mistakes, etc? I have tried all manner of ways to divert my mind by work and study.

“Do you believe in confession, in the case of a non-Catholic, for the purpose of relieving the mind?

“How can I overcome prejudice? I find I am prejudiced against certain sects and races.”

Rather a stiff task, to answer all these questions. Of course, I cannot “answer” them fully. All I or any one can do is to give a few hints which may be useful.

Oversleeping is not necessarily laziness. Go to bed earlier, if you have to rise at a certain hour. It’s a safe rule to take all the sleep you can get. The rule in my own family is, “Let the sleepy sleep.”

Laziness is not a bad quality always. A lazy body often houses a most energetic mind. The real cure for physical laziness is fun; find some form of exercise that lures you. Mental laziness is a more difficult disease, and you can only cure it by taking yourself severely in hand. Usually, I should say, it is hopeless.

Fear can generally be mitigated, if not altogether removed, by intelligence. It is a by-product of ignorance, as a rule. We are afraid of what we don’t know. Science (knowledge) has done much to alleviate superstition (ignorance).

Worry can only be remedied by adopting some rational theory of life, some common-sense philosophy. Maeterlinck and Emerson have done me more good, as worry-antidotes, than any other masters.

How to “let go” of bedevilling thoughts is a hard problem. Thoughts that burn, stew, ferment, and torment—who has not suffered from them? About all I can do is to let them run their course. I say, “This too shall pass!” and try to bear up against the pestiferous imaginings and memories until they wear themselves out.

It is also a good idea to have some attractive, interesting, fascinating vision, of a pleasant nature, to which we can turn our minds when annoying suggestions persist. The author of “Alice in Wonderland” (who was a great mathematician) used to work out geometrical tasks, which he called “pillow problems” (and wrote a book of that name), to get himself to sleep. Can’t you find some alluring things to think of when wooing slumber? Call for them, and by and by they will come.

Do I believe in confession? Nothing can so purge the soul. Still, it must be exercised with the extremest care, judgment, and discretion, else you may harm others in pacifying yourself.

“How can I overcome prejudices against such and such sects or races?” Just repeat over and over to yourself that all prejudice is stupid and ignorant. By and by you will, by auto-suggestion, get it into your subconsciousness that prejudice shall have no place in you.

Prejudice means “judging before” you have the facts. Never judge till after you have the facts.

Nothing is so utterly devoid of reason as a passionate hatred of any race or class. All men are much the same when you come to know them. Class or race faults are superficial. The human qualities strike deep.

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