If you remember, a few years ago, I stumbled across the book Dr. Frank Crane’s 4-Minute Essays. This seemingly forgotten book, hidden deep inside my university’s library, intrigued me. It’s titled begged the question, “Could each essay actually be read in 4-minutes?”
(Spoiler Alert: They easily can be read in less than 4-Minutes)
Written as series of short essays, with each trying to convey some little bit of wisdom, Dr. Frank Crane’s 4-Minute Essays is a fascinating read. Originally published in 1919, a lot of the essays are dated in their viewpoints, but give you a window into a forgotten world of the past. Yet, some of the better essays are timeless, and could easily be passed off a sage advice today in a LinkedIn or Facebook post. If you want to read my brief thoughts on each essay, you can do so here.
As I quickly read my way through this collection of essays, I discovered an essay that has stuck with me for much longer than 4-minutes. This essay is titled “Doing Clears the Mind.”
In “Doing Clears the Mind,” Dr. Frank Crane lays out a treatise on how to live well. His ideal life is one of work and action, not “idle hours.” To him, this hones one’s judgement and sparks the creativity that is necessary for true happiness.
Of all the things I’ve ever read, none have come close to embodying my world view more than “Doing Clears the Mind.” A framed copy of it now hangs in my apartment. I reread it often.
On days that I am stressed about a decision, I remember, “Physical activity has a peculiar luminous effect upon the judgement.” and then find a hole to dig or a tree to trim.
On days that I am cynical, I remind myself that, “Those who believe the world is growing better are they that are trying to make it grow better.”
On days that I get a little frustrated, I tell myself, “Be kind, steadily and persistently, and you will believe in kindness.”
As you might imagine, Dr. Frank Crane’s writings have fallen into the ruthless void of history. His works, including his ten-volumes of 4-minute essays have been out of print for years.
Am I the only person in the world to have read this essay? No. I have shared it with a few people. But, I do wonder if anyone else besides these people have read it.
As “Doing Clears the Mind” is seemingly forgotten and in the public domain, I consider myself its guardian. Therefore, I feel its my duty to share it.
Doing Clears the Mind
By Dr. Frank Crane
Doing clears the mind. Physical activity has a peculiar luminous effect upon the judgement. The soundest views of life come not from the pulpit or the professional chair, but from the workshop. To saw a plank or nail down a shingle, to lay a stone square or paint a house evenly, to run a locomotive or raise a good crop of corn, somehow reacts upon the intelligence, reaching the very inward essential cell of wisdom; provided that the worker is brave, not afraid of his own conclusions, and does not hand his thinking over to some guesser with a large bluff. Doing makes religion. All the religion that is of any account is what we thresh out with our own hands, suffer out with our own hearts, and find out with our own visions. Doing creates faith. Doubt comes from Sundays, and other idle hours. The only people who believe the Ten Commandments are those who do them. Those who believe the world is growing better are they that are trying to make it grow better. Doing brings joy. The sweetest of joys is the joy of accomplishment. Make love and you will feel love. Quit making love and you will doubt love. Be kind, steadily and persistently, and you will believe in kindness. Be unclean and you will soon sneer at anybody’s claim to virtue. Be mean and you will cease to believe there is any goodness in the world.
So, a man has his own destiny, his own creed, his own internal peace, his own nobility in his hands-literally in his hands. For all the worth-while wisdom of goodness you have in your head and heart was soaked up by your hands.