Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Power of Right Thinking

It's not about thinking on the right. Or on the left. Or hitting it dead center. It's about seeing clearly and thinking clearly, for it is as Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

In 1922 Dr. Frank Crane, a Presbyterian minister, wrote an essay entitled "The Power of Right Thinking." He followed it up with four other essays, each published separately, and each one dealing with another aspect of living.

With very little effort you can trace a timeline from Emerson (On Self-Reliance) to Crane, from Crane to Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking), and from Peale to Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich). From Hill you can go to The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

What do all of these thinkers and their books have in common?

Dr. Crane tells us. Get rid of the enemies to right thinking and you're in the clear. Here they are, we all know them, but in the course of a day, we can easily forget them. My favorite "enemies" are --


Of course Dr. Crane doesn't stop; he goes on prophetically. He states that Mind is everything. Love is everything else. And the belief in a higher power (call it life force if you will) joins the two as one. Using wisdom instead of unbridled passion, Dr. Crane comes to the conclusion that only through lack of Mind, Love and Wisdom do we err.

Easily said, you might say. So how do we . . .

Dr. Crane lays out a four-fold, eight-fold, sixteen-fold plan.  "The secret is simple," he says, "and as old as philosophy. It is that by repeating an action one can gradually induce a desire to repeat it, and by refusing a desire one can eliminate it.." So, what is the formula? Dr. Crane explains that Right Thinking is the answer. That means thinking without egotism, fear, prejudice and ignorance.

How do we accomplish this? Dr. Crane answers that we have to pay attention, we have to listen to others, we have to turn off our busy-body mind, and calmly surrender to truth.

What is truth? Truth is not what others say or what you think you say. It is not what others have told you to say or what great philosophers have said. Truth is in the center of all of these, but it stands alone. And it, alone, is pristine, unvarnished, and real. Truth stands in the middle between the arguments on either side that try to win it over to their side. Truth doesn't budge; it is what it is.

How can one live in the truth?

Dr. Crane suggests: "Eliminate the pronoun "I" as much as possible. Don't talk about yourself, what you did and what you like and what you're going to do. Encourage the other person to talk about himself."

The golden mean, the golden compass, the golden rule of Dr. Crane's amazing thinking is that it's so simple. So basic. "Watch your thought life," he advises, "and don't neglect the little things."

Please, excuse me, thank you. These expressions of grace are still useful. They still work.

"Everything counts," says Dr. Crane.

And he ends his 88 page masterpiece by saying, "You are not alone."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More on Maurice Sendak

So many people have written me in the past couple of days saying that they too had a meeting with the Master. 

A bestselling children's book author told me that his career was actually launched by Maurice because he sent out his first book in manuscript to a bunch of authors he admired and only one responded. That one was the one. Yep. Maurice. And his letter made up for the missing others. 

Catherine Balkin (Balkin's Buddies) wrote the other day: "I wore the Wild Things costume a few times, once at an event where Maurice was speaking. When I came up on stage, Maurice bent toward me and whispered, "I bet you're hot in there." He was right." 

Then a friend who was a both a children's author and an actor sent me this: "Did I tell you how we met? He had a condo in the same building where I was staying and one night after the ballet or opera, I saw Maurice getting out of a cab. He held the door for me,  but I told him no thanks. He seemed a little put out that I had pretended to want a cab, so I explained to him that I had wanted a cab, but now I was more interested in meeting him. That cheered him up and we strolled around the neighborhood. He pointed out where he wrote Wild Things and we said we’d keep in touch. We did, and had lovely days in Ridgefield every now and then." 

Maurice Sendak may not be an angel but he is a saint.  In my book, and I mean book. He has helped so very many people that I know and so many more I have only read. For instance, once he told me that when Edward Gorey was not very well known and still wearing a WW I airman's hat and goggles around the streets of New York, Maurice asked him if he'd like an introduction to his editor. Gorey said, "They wouldn't be interested in me." So Maurice took that as a challenge and asked his editor if the firm would be interested in Edward Gorey. And the answer: "He wouldn't be interested in us." I don't think Maurice got EG to take off his leather airman's skullcap, but he did get him published by a major house. 

There is a tendency today for authors who've "made it", as we used to say in the 70s, to forget how it was coming up. They forget -- some of them -- how much it means to a young author, would-be or not, to hear a word of cheer. Maurice, despite the curmudgeonly play-acting, is one of the few who always lent a hand, and, thankfully, still does.