"The New Art of Living"
by Norman Vincent Peale
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A priceless guide to peace of mind by the world-famous author of The Power of Positive Thinking. For 54 years (from 1935 to 1989), Norman Vincent Peale hosted a weekly radio program -- The Art of Living. This is a revised version of Peale's first book entitled The Art of Living, published in 1937.
In this unique book Norman Vincent Peale has renewed the inspirational message of THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING to provide practical, creative solutions to the problems of today.
THE NEW ART OF LIVING will show you:
• HOW TO APPRECIATE YOURSELF
• HOW TO CURE YOUR WEAKNESSES
• HOW TO TAKE TIME TO LIVE
• HOW TO HAVE PEACE OF MIND
• HOW TO ESCAPE FEAR
• HOW TO BE TRULY HAPPY
"The purpose of this book is to give practical help to men and women everywhere in the greatest of all arts, the art of living." —Norman Vincent Peale
Everyone who scans these pages is alive. The fact that he is able to sit up and run his eyes over these words is proof of that. It does not follow, however, that being alive he knows the art of living. We are, many of us, in the strange anomaly of living and yet not living. The body functions; its surpassing mechanism does its part well. We live and move and have our being in the flesh, and yet, sadly enough, many miss the joy of life. Hamlet, as all may testify, was not the last man to find his days—"stale, flat, and unprofitable." It is, when you think of it, a peculiar thing for a man to live and yet not live. There is manifestly something decidedly wrong with it. The thing does not make sense.
In a way we are all philosophers. We would rather apathetically like to know the origin and destiny of human life, but at best these are to us academic questions which, while satisfying to the inquiring spirit, more or less developed in us all, are not our chief concern. What we eagerly want to know is how to extract the most in contentment and satisfaction from these hurrying years we call our time.
Nor will we be content with theories, however finely spun. Excellent treatises on life and its infinite ramifications, however exhaustive and commendable their scholarship, do not meet the requirements of the practical question raised here. The hard-pressed man of today, surrounded as he is by the most elaborate array of problems ever to distract human intelligence, earnestly wants one question answered and in terms he can understand and appreciate. That question boldly and baldly stated is, "Tell me how to live here and now in a way that will bring me satisfaction and peace and give me sense of meaning." From the scholar to the ignoramus, from the millionaire to the pauper, from the capitalist to the communist, in varying form and style, that is the great question and desire of men everywhere. All other questions, however significant, take second place to that problem.
The author believes that the principles of Jesus Christ contain the secret of the satisfactory life. But ever-increasing masses of the people fail to attend church and so do not come under the influence of its teaching. Moreover, these people feel that the Church does not generally talk in the language and thought forms of the common man, with the result that they neither understand nor are greatly interested in giving spiritually oriented living a trial. The gospel and its power to help everyday people in their everyday lives needs to be restated in simple, current phrase. The workable technique of spiritual power needs to be retaught. The purpose of this book is to give practical help to men and women everywhere in the greatest of all arts, the art of living.
Life begins today for the person who meets himself. At whatever age this great event occurs, life, deep and full, wells up and from that time on it can truly be said one lives. Strangely enough, multitudes of men and women are born, spend their days and die, never having really known themselves. They come and go on the human scene, the possessors of unrealized powers which never quite find expression. Of such Holmes pathetically declared, "They died with all their music in them." Human waste of such magnitude is little short of tragic and constitutes an offense against creation.
Our problem is to become acquainted with our own selves, letting our personalities loose upon the world for the sheer adventure of their full development and in the positive hope that they may in their own way lift the level of humanity.
Long ago Socrates wrote over the old Greek Temple—"Know Thyself—for he realized that achievement in any field and in the art of living itself is dependent upon an accurate knowledge of oneself. The average man needs this injunction of the Father of Philosophy, for most of us have no adequate conception of our powers and abilities. At heart we underestimate ourselves. We do not really believe in ourselves and remain for that reason weak, ineffectual, even impotent, when we could be strong, dominant, victorious.
An old cobbler in Edinburgh, with that mature wisdom not infrequently found in the simple, honorable trades, was in the habit of beginning each day with the prayer, "O Lord, give me a high opinion of myself." To be sure, there are some people who seem to possess this lofty personal respect without necessity for recourse to the expedient of prayer, but it yet remains that the mass of men do not have a high opinion of themselves, and the reason is they do not know themselves.
Dynamic of Self-Realization
The greatest day in any individual's life is when he begins for the first time to realize himself. For some this fortunately happens early in life and it bestows upon them a decided advantage. For others it happens late, but when it does the monotony of the unresponsive years is made to shine in the reflected glory of the late afternoon sunburst. Whether it be early or late, any of us may well seek unremittingly the exciting experience of personal realization.
It happened to a college student friend of mine once with dramatic suddenness. Genial, easygoing, he was as unsuccessful in his studies as he was efficient upon the athletic field. His popularity with the cheering section was not fully shared by the faculty, and the curtain was slowly but surely falling upon his academic career. Its final drop, for some not too obscure reason, awaited only the conclusion of the football season.
Destiny, however, has its own strange ways. One day in a class in psychology our student friend suddenly became enthralled as the professor described how the average man fails because he does not learn to control and consolidate his powers. He used the familiar illustration of the burning glass. The rays of the sun, falling upon a piece of paper, have little effect. Let them, however, be drawn by the burning glass to a focus and they create an intense heat which will quickly burn a hole in the paper.
The professor pointed out that the man who succeeds is the one who can draw his dissipated and therefore futile powers to a focus. Our student said that in a flashing illumination he saw the cause of his own failure and oblivious of all in the room and under the spell of a veritable new birth leaped to his feet, crying, "I see it; I see it." Whereupon, amidst litters of amusement, he sank back embarrassed but wonderingly happy into his seat. What had happened? He had met himself, a new self, his real self, which never before had received its day in the sun, and the revelation changed him from a failure to a potential success, the possibilities of which were later abundantly realized.
Learn to Appreciate Yourself
A similar experience may be gained by any person who desires it strongly enough to put himself and keep himself in the way of finding it. The first step is to plant in your mind the seed of a wholesome self-appreciation. You must cultivate a genuine understanding of the worth and significance of yourself and of all men. This is made necessary by the fact that we live in a time in which we have been surfeited by a multitude of cheap ideas as to what we are.
The growing knowledge of the universe, which in the past half century revealed the vastness of the cosmos, gave rise to the notion that man is correspondingly insignificant. The new scientific control over nature caused the development of the theory that the spiritual force called God is either nonexistent or, at least, not quite so necessary to humanity as had been believed, for had not man discovered that he could use science as an Aladdin's Lamp to give him all he desired and God no longer was needed except for a few remaining superstitious, religious souls?
As the idea of God dwindled, man's spiritual significance also declined and now, instead of, as Wordsworth said,
". . . Trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home."
it was said that man is merely a fortuitous aggregation of matter struck off by a mechanical universe. He had no divine heritage and his immortal future was all a gigantic delusion. We were informed that man is an animal even if of a higher grade, an animal which had learned to talk and do wonderful things with his hands and brain, or perhaps he was only a miniature machine of similar nature as the newly discovered universe. To be sure, it was pointed out that it was quite remarkable for animals or machines to write plays like Shakespeare or music like Beethoven, but the teachers of the new humanities blithely smiled such objections away.
It was also urged that man did not readily yield to the attempt to make a machine of him, for he still possessed the two functions of a living organism— namely, the ability to repair his own parts and to reproduce himself. It was shown that no automobile, for example, had been invented that could patch its own tires, and that no case had been reported to the Bureau of Vital Statistics where a happy Ford had given birth to a litter of little Fords in some wondering garage.
God Is Dead? Antique Idea
Whereas at the turn of the century the great scientists were rather bowing God out of the universe, it now appears that under the influence of a more mature and therefore profounder knowledge of the natural sciences He is being ushered back with new respect into the world He made. It is becoming somewhat obvious, as a distinguished thinker has declared, "that if so much mind is required to read off the processes of the universe, it must itself be the product of mind." A universe once thought to be the result of a blind self-assembling of force and matter without benefit of a directing intelligence is a theory increasingly untenable to the modern mind.
Sir James Jeans, distinguished British scientific man, said that our universe seems to be more like a great thought than a great machine. Amplifying this opinion, he declared, "I would say as a speculation, not as a scientific fact, that the universe is a creation of some great universal mind underlying and coordinating all our minds," and he concludes, significantly, "Scientific knowledge seems to be moving in that direction."
Strangely enough, the minor thinkers have not yet quite comprehended this change of front in the scientific world. It would seem the profounder scientists are usually years in advance of the lesser teachers. The latter little realize how out of date they are with their simulated erudition and bored amusement. They wave aside what they consider the old, outworn spiritual view of man and his world. Meanwhile, the great thinkers have already restored the theistic belief to an honored place in their cosmology. The small fry, if past performance may truly prophesy, catch up with this speeding truth at a slower pace—it takes about twenty years. But sooner or later, people return like the prodigal to belief in God and their own essential worth.
Greater Men Coming
It will conceivably be popular once again as in days long gone to declaim to popular applause Shakespeare's noble lines, for these many years unhappily in disuse: "What a piece of work is man!" Indeed, Professor Whitehead, in his Adventure of Ideas, has already led the way. "The importance of man," he says, "as the supreme organism is beyond question. With all his shortcomings in image, attribute, and deed he deserves to be visited by Him who has ordained the stars."
At this point warning should be given that, like every other essential truth, the fact of man's greatness may work itself out in forms beneficial to society or in a manner subversive to human good. Stress on the sovereignty of the individual and his potential powers may lead to men like gods, investing all life with new dignity and meaning, or to men, selfish and predatory. It all depends upon the ideals that motivate these greater personalities we are seeking to develop. An unspiritual, non-religious, pagan philosophy of individualism leads in the realm of thought to crass humanism, in the social order to ruthless Toryism, and in politics to the dictator. The important element in a renewed faith in man is the spiritualizing of his life and purpose.
Thus our point of view has in it the danger of creating dictators, but it also has the possibility of flowering out in men of great humanity like Schweitzer. It may make men who go for power and special privilege, but it may, if God touches them to release their greatness, make men to match the mountains, unselfish benefactors of humanity.
"God give us men," the poet once prayed, for, said he, "the time demands strong minds, great hearts. . . ." So it does, and only God can give those strong souls, who bless the world. An individualism without spiritual understanding is filled with dark and sinister possibilities.
When inspired by God, it becomes the salvation of our common life. Strong, good men, technicians of the secret of spiritual power, ever secure for themselves life's richest values, but more importantly they guarantee to all men the establishment of a social order of equity, justice, and enduring goodwill.
The sort of individualism I am advocating here is that which was in the mind of William James—"We and God have business with each other," he said, "and in that business our highest destiny is fulfilled."
Have a High Opinion of Yourself
It is therefore perfectly proper and in very good style for you to entertain a high opinion of yourself. Square your shoulders, and march forth bravely to meet life. You are more than a match for it. You are not going down to defeat. You are unconquerable. Not by your own merit, of course, but by the grace of God you may become the greatest being in God's world— and you must believe that; you can believe it.
There are many reliable sources to which we may turn for verification of this amazing assertion. The poets tell us it is true. They sing of the greatness of man. But the poet, alas, is not universally honored by a generation which has deified the practical man, he whose touch turns all to gold, or as sometimes happens, to debts and unemployment.
For some, the poet's songs seem to have wasted their sweetness on the desert air. The great poets are, however, the abiding seers of the human race. Their ears are more sensitive than ours. They hear the rich overtones of life where truth is whispered from high places. They have eyes with long-range vision, with power to penetrate to the essence of things through the dust of the streets which blind us whose sight, alas, is so faulty. It may be that in his brooding, a master poet is made ready for some illumination which comes finally, whereby in flashing insight he sees things as they are, even as a flash of lightning on a dark night reveals with cameolike distinctness a darkened landscape. As Guido in Browning's "Ring and the Book" saw Naples, its towers and steeples, and Vesuvius with its wisp of smoke on a stormy night etched for a flashing second before his gaze, so the poet once or twice in a lifetime beholds the glory of truth itself. He tells us of his vision in words that become immortal, less for their music than for truth which, Woodrow Wilson once pointed out in glorious phrase—"is no cripple; it can run alone."
Thus Tennyson, in "The Princess," in some of the most exquisite lines in English verse beholds the real value of you and me:
"The splendor falls on castle walls,
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes.
And wild cataract leaps in glory;
Blow, bugle, blow! set the wild echoes flying!
Blow, bugle! answer, echoes! dying, dying, dying."
This is the supernal beauty of the natural world, but lime and decay will wear it down.
"O love, they die in you rich sky.
They faint on hill or field or river."
Not so with man; that fate will not overtake him sees the poet in ecstatic vision, and so he sings of the high, soaring triumph of man—
"Our echoes roll from soul to soul
And grow forever and forever."
You Are Greater Than You Think
That is what you are, the one great unbreakable, undefeatable creature in this universe. "The stars shall fade away, the sun himself grow dim with age,"
Addison tells us, but you "shall have eternal youth." What a figure you are! Standing at the center of a universe that waxes old like a garment, you alone are indestructible. As Dostoievski nobly expressed it, "We are citizens of eternity." Why, then, should you let the little things of daily life defeat you and destroy your strong effectiveness? Remember who you are. The world may look like Goliath, the giant, but you can defeat it for the simple reason that you are what you are, and that is enough.
But if the testimony of the poets is not convincing, let us hear from the men of science. They are, it appears, widely considered the oracles of our time. They inform us that we do not know half of our real value. We need and have the right to an enlarged conception of ourselves. Dr. Alexis Carrel, distinguished scientist and Nobel prize winner, turned away from those who entertain a low estimate of man. To Carrel, "despite its stupendous immensity, the world of matter is too narrow for him (man). Like his economic and social environment, it does not fit him. With the aid of mathematical abstractions his mind apprehends (and rules) electrons and stars. He is made on the scale of the terrestrial mountains, oceans, and rivers." It is you this great scientist is talking about.
Take a deep breath, for you are greater even than that, for Doctor Carrel is not yet through with you. "But he belongs also to another world. A world which, although enclosed within himself, stretches beyond space and time. And in this world, if his will is indomitable, he may travel over the infinite cycles." That is the latest word of modern science about what you are. Let a deep laugh well up within you at the grotesque idea that you ever believed life could defeat you.
The great philosophers must also be heard from on this important subject. What do they say about man? One of the supreme thinkers of modern times was Immanuel Kant. Through his brain passed some of the greatest thoughts ever entertained by the mind of man. He sums up all his great thoughts into just two which are expressed in a familiar passage: "Two things fill me with constantly increasing admiration and awe the longer and more earnestly I reflect on them, the starry heavens without and the moral law within." What did he mean by that? Simply that in each of us there is something in wonder and beauty comparable to the majesty and magnificence of the celestial vault. Can that be possible? Life bears it out.
Elevator Boy Braves Fire
I read of an elevator boy in a cheap hotel. He was only a kid off the streets and of doubtful parentage, a bit of the flotsam and jetsam of life. In the dead of night fire broke out in the upper stories of the hotel. The stairway was soon cut off. The only way of escape was the elevator. The boy ran his car tentatively a time or two up into the burning hotel, bringing down the terrified guests. The heat became intense, the smoke blinding. He went up again and came down with others. Should he go back for more? Up above was fire and incredible heat and probable injury, perhaps even death. He felt the cool air from the street. Life was sweet to him. Why should he risk his life? Nobody would expect it of him, for he was only a waif. Why not make his escape?
But something within him resisted. He slammed the door of his car and again and again shot up into that hell of fire and flame until finally he went once too often and the car became his funeral pyre. Was it not the moral law within coming into its own, by which life reaches its true level of equality with the stars in their glory?
These poets and scientists and philosophers, testifying to the greatness of you and me, remind us of a Book written long ago. It is a Book designed to help people know and realize themselves. In it we are told that "God created man in his own image, . . . and gave him dominion." The Book tells of a great Personality who touched men here and there and they became men of power and strength. One of the men helped by this Personality wrote about the power He gives to those who believe in Him: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become," That is to say—this Personality helps them to become what they have it in them to become.
Man in himself is not strong or great although he possesses intrinsically the elements of greatness. When in humility of spirit and by an act of surrender he opens himself to the grace of God his Creator, then, like a dynamo, ready for the power for which it was made, he is attached to the source of an energy which transforms him from mute ineffectiveness to creative force.
In his famous address on "The Energies of Men" William James declared, "Men habitually use only a small part of the powers which they possess and which they might use under appropriate circumstances." A scientist is reported recently to have said that the average man uses but twenty percent of his brain power. When you think of some people, that sounds like optimism. Think of it—you are using, if you are an average person, only one fifth of your mental capacity.
Consider what you could make of life if you increased that only fifty percent. In the personality of every individual is a great reservoir of unused power. But in many of us just a miserable little trickle is getting through, and on that we live and do our work. The great secret of life is to put a key into the lock, turn back the sluice gates and let that power, like a terrific stream, flow into your mind and personality, transforming you into a person of strength and effectiveness, well able to meet and master all circumstances.
Applied Christianity helps people to tap this reservoir of power within themselves. I have seen it work so astoundingly in so many lives that I have come to believe that the man who will not use this power so freely available to him is as foolish as a man who, knowing that oil is in his back yard, refuses to sink a well and instead goes on living from hand to mouth. That is exactly what is done by people who, knowing of the power real Christianity holds, refuse to let it into their lives.
Of course, I realize that much Christianity as preached and practiced fails to reveal this power. It has been made a lifeless thing of creed and ceremony, and stereotyped jargon and allowed to be considered a system of social ethics only. Christianity is not a creed to be recited but a power to be tapped. Nor is it only a social bill of rights, although it is that in every sense of the phrase. The important thing to emphasize in that it is a source of inward power by which weak personalities can become strong; divided personalities can become unified; hurt minds can be healed; and the secret of peace and poise attained.
Every Weakness Can Be Cured
There is no weakness or illness of personality that cannot be cured by applied Christianity. The science of psychology is revealing the wonder and possibility of human personality, just as exploration in early days opened up the possibilities of the physical world. One great fact growing out of it is the absolute and amazing results in becoming bigger and better and stronger personalities, to be obtained through faith in and practice of the spirit and presence of Christ. Thoughtful men today are learning the validity of the experience of a man named Paul, who, himself a divided personality, met Christ and ever afterward went about saying a wonderful thing: "I can do all things through Christ who giveth me the strength." The strange power found by the sage of Tarsus long ago is still available for any man who is wise enough to want this power and who will take it. To meet Christ in this sense is to meet yourself for the first time in your life, and you will be happier with the new self than the old, for now you will begin truly to live.
I was speaking one night along this line, and at the close I noticed a young woman waiting for me in obvious agitation. As soon as she saw that I was unoccupied she approached and with great intensity asked, "For God's sake, can you do anything for me?" She was a handsome young woman, stylishly dressed. It was evident that she had been drinking to excess. My reply was, "No, I cannot do much for you but I can introduce you to Someone who can do for you anything that needs to be done." I asked her to go into my office, where she told her story.
She had come of a good family and was a graduate of high school and college, in both cases with honors. Her training was religious and idealistic. She had married, but the marriage had failed and a divorce had eventuated. Her earlier ideals of life became blunted as she acquiesced finally in the loose morality of the times. It brought her no happiness but, on the contrary, increased the dissatisfaction and misery of her life. Her mind fell into a state of bewildered confusion and she was assailed by an overwhelming repulsion and disgust. When I saw her, she was, to use her own phrase, "at the end of a shabby rope." "No," I said, in the quiet of my office, "there is little I can do for you but I will make you a proposition if you really want help." I then told her that if she would completely surrender her life in every respect to Jesus Christ and take the power He would give her in return, she would enter into an altogether new life.
She asked, "How do you surrender?" To which I replied, "Just say to Christ, 'I give my life into Your hands.'" Again she questioned, "How can I take the power He offers?" For answer I picked up a book and held it out to her. "Take it," I said, "it is as simple as that." She did these things as simply as a child, this sophisticated, ultramodern girl. There in the office of the Fifth Avenue church the ancient miracle repeated itself whereby Christ touched a life and it was changed, really changed. She became, to use the words of the New Testament, "a new creature." It was real too.
In the years that have passed since that night she has become happy, strong, and good. Life, no longer near the shallows, is at high tide for her now. Only vital Christianity can perform a service like that. Other forces have been invented or discovered which can change the face of nature, but only this kind of Christianity can transform human nature.
Some people may doubt an experience like this, or explain it away on psychological grounds, or smile it away as old-fashioned evangelism. But that has no effect on my thinking for I am not speculating in theories. I am merely stating events that I have witnessed and know to be facts. No man can argue away a fact. It is because these facts were known to be true that we can say positively that any person who is not satisfied with his life and wants a better one can have it by the method outlined in this chapter and throughout this book. This guarantee is absolute and unqualified and may be and is supported by the pragmatic slogan, "Ask the man who has experienced it."