A Letter of Hope

The most exquisite Roman and Florentine mosaics are those in which there are the greatest number of infinitesimal pieces combined with the larger and rare stones; so in the mosaic of life may it not be the doing of the little things faithfully which makes it most beautiful; and to invalids may it not be the special gift of God, the power to see these little things which in the rush and turmoil of life busy people do not see or have time to do? Would it not be well to remember the verse of our childhood:

Little drops of water,

Little grains of sand,

Make the mighty ocean

And the pleasant land?

Certainly the pleasant land of health is made by the little things we do or leave undone.

Again, I believe the imagination is often at fault, and I found it could only be kept from drifting into the worse channels of thought by giving it good solid food. I memorized hymns and poetry, not only some of the great works but bright, invigorating pieces and also funny, amusing rhymes and even jokes. I translated from German, French and Latin into English and vice versa. I wrote children’s stories for my own amusement and rewrote novels I had read, making the heroes or heroines act differently under different circumstances. These may seem little things to write of, but they helped me and I will mention later how they specially helped me through two crisis of my life.

It is difficult to keep the mind from dwelling on unhappy and unpleasant memories when one is shut in much of the time. To keep bright pictures before the mind’s eye while I was resting I had a frame placed near my bed, in which I put photographs, mounted on cardboard of many of the most celebrated pictures cut to fit the pretty frame. These I changed from day to day, memorizing them. It is singular how we think we know a picture, but if we were asked to take the posture we could not do it. I have tried this with a number of persons and not one of them could take the position of the figures in some of the best known works of art. I memorized also past scenes, and the places which I saw, when I was able to go out to drive. I was once told by an English clergyman that this was a habit of Farrar and that the power of his “Life of Christ” came largely from the vividness with which he described the scenery of the Holly Land, from his memorizing it and re-visualizing it. I feel I have mentioned little things, but I said I would tell you how they helped me when two crisis came. Often before, while practicing these methods daily, I asked myself the good of them.

When I was recovering from my second break-down my eyes gave out. I went to the oculist to hear: “For one whole year you must not write anything, nor read any written or printed matter; wear these glasses and come again at the end of the year. Don’t think much about your eyes.” I said, “I never can bear that: I live in books.” He replied, “I thought so; see if you cannot find two larger books than any that are printed.” I thought, now surely all these fears and dreads and horrid thoughts against which I have been fighting will come in and control in mind. I can never get on without books. Now, however, looking back, I can see that I gained more during that year than in any other. First, I found two books, the Book of nature and the Books of Human Nature, still open to me. Second, I learned really to go walk, body, mind, and soul. Before, I had often left my mind at home or carried a book with me. It was a very humbling year. I found out how little I really owned; for we really never own a book until it is so much part of us that we can go without the printed page. It came to me that very little of what I had been reading I would take with me after this life, and this experience gave me time to sort out and pigeon-hole much I had read. What I had memorized of poetry and pictures were also a great help to me, and at the end of the year my health and all nervous symptoms were much better.

E. Worcester 1908

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