The Care Of The Health
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
We have shown that a man's success depends largely upon his working power and that it is contingent upon sound digestion and healthy blood. Hence the care of the physical health becomes of prime importance. Nothing is more necessary for the man of affairs to know, than how to keep. his body in good working trim. Indeed, Herbert Spencer says that such knowledge lies at the basis of all true education. No doubt that much of that quality which the world calls talent is due to mere physical endurance and, if we know how to conserve and develop this energy of action, we are best prepared for the world's work. In this sense good health is capital and we should look to the cuisine with the same care that we scan our bank-book ; we should see to the proper ventilation of our apartments with the same diligence that we look after the details of business ; we should take exercise with the same 'frequency that we examine the footings of cash account, and take an inventory of our strength and working power as well as the merchandise upon the shelves.
To do the duties of a laborious life we need, first of . all, a vigorous constitution, and this can be secured only by proper attention to the culture and care of the body. Desire and sensation are the voices that prompt or warn us when the body is in need. Lack of food is made known by the call of hunger extreme heat or cold arouse sensations in the body that we rarely fail to heed. And if we would always listen to these voices of God within us, there would be little of phys ical ill. Life would become at once more enjoyable and all its practical ends would be subserved much better. If weariness were followed at the proper time by rest if our sense of oppressiveness in close rooms would only lead us to ventilate them ; if there were no eating without hunger, nor drinking without thirst, there would be few of the vexing ills of life that destroy our working force and send us to premature graves. Nature has provided sufficient safeguards to insure our continuance in life-long strength and health, and the only reason why our communities are so filled with bodily disorder and ill-health is because we do not know or else utterly disregard the laws of life. No error is more pernicious than that which leads to carelessness and indifference with regard to these destructive agencies that slowly and silently sap the foundations of bodily vigor. A man can better afford to be careless of anything else than his health. Common instinct is sufficient to guard us against the great causes of injury to the physical man ; but intelligence alone can protect us from the unseen and insidious forces of physiological mischief. Ignorance here is of the most costly kind. Carelessness here is a crime and a sin. And yet the world is so slowly learning the lessons which most nearly concern its happiness and well-being.
One of the first requisites of good health is pure air. It is the natural agency for the purification of the blood. In the wonderful mechanism of the human lungs the oxygen of the atmosphere is brought into close contact with venal blood ; there the worn out tissues of the body and all the impurities of the system are burned as in a furnace. The result upon the blood is to purify it and develop animal heat ; the result upon the inhaled air is the loss of its oxygen and the addition of carbon-dioxide, a poison as deadly to the system as any that can be named. The body is thus continually generating carbon-dioxide. It is the function of respiration to remove it from the lungs. To satisfy the full demands of the physical economy, this carbon-dioxide must be continually replaced by pure air containing 20 per cent. of uncontaminated oxygen. If respiration be carried on in close rooms the air soon becomes loaded with the deadly carbon-dioxide and is inhaled again and again, to obstruct the proper ration of the blood and carry poison to the very seat of life. An eminent writer upon this subject says:
"Air contaminated with this poison acts as a narcotic. The symptoms of its action are throbbing headache, with a feeling of fullness across the temples. Excessive unrest ends in giddiness and palpitation of the heart. The pulse falls, respiration becomes slow and labored, the skin turns cold and livid, and the patient dies in convulsion and delirium."
A cubic foot of air, under ordinary circumstances, contains less than a cubic inch of carbon-dioxide but a cubic foot of air exhaled from the lungs in respiration contains more than seventy cubic inches of this deadly poison. A person, in breathing, therefore, poisons one cubic foot of air per minute. These facts show how soon the air in living apartments becomes unfit for the proper ration of the blood, upon which all the vital processes of the body depend. Indeed, it is impossible for the blood to be completely oxygenated, except by exercise in the open air. Our health demands that we shall take deep draughts daily of pure air ; and it is vastly better if we can take these inhalations where the winds blow in their might and the breezes play in freedom and purity. Everybody needs exercise, two hours a day, under the blue sky where they can look the sun in the face and the blood leaps to meet the life-giving oxygen. Here is the true stimulant for the failing forces of weak humanity, better than alcohol, better than fancy patent foods, better than all the nostrums the medical fraternity have ever invented. Better than hydropathy or allopathy, better than homeopathy or electricism, is this simple remedy of nature, found among the trees and flowers of any summer landscape or on the bleak hills of winter. "Breathing an impure atmosphere," says Mr. You-mans, "injures the mind as well as the body. If the blood which is sent from the lungs to the rest of the system is imperfectly aerated, no organ feels it more than the brain. Its immediate effect is to cloud the mind and depress its energy ; sharpness of attention, clearness of apprehension, and readiness of memory are all impaired. The health of the mental and bodily functions, the spirit, temper, disposition, the correctness of the judgment and brilliancy of the imagination depend directly upon pure air."
The ancients understood the value of physical training much better than we. It formed a part, not only of their general education but even of their religious worship. Men participated in wrestling, boxing and leaping, not only in the gymnasia of Athens, but on the sandy plains of Ells and the Isthmus. The magnificent games that were the leading feature of the quadrennial festival of Olympian Zeus were the most splendid sports the world ever saw. The youth of Greece and Rome were brought up in the midst of manly sport and exercise, and the world has rarely seen such vigorous races as that which breathed the balmy air of Hellas and that which brought the captive nations home, chained to triumphal chariot wheels. There is no more valuable lesson for the world to learn than that revealed to us in the statues of antiquity. What frames are here portrayed ! What legs and arms and trunks and massive heads ! What evidence these cold marbles show of healthy blood, strong nerves, sharp digestion and fullest vigor ! It would be well for our pale lawyers, our sunken-eyed clergymen, our haggard merchants, our hysterical women, to go back to the palestra, the foot-race and weaving-beam of Greece. The greatest need of the present age is "that harmonious education in which the body shared as well as the mind." The professional men of our day need to be like Aristotle and Plato, of whom it has been said "that no dyspepsia broke the harmony of their thought, no neuralgia twinged the system with agony, and no philosopher's ail infected the throat with bad blood or an ulcerated mucous membrane."
Lack of sleep and overwork are sadly ruining the health of our American people. With ten hours a day at our posts of labor, hastily eaten and half masticated food, six hours a night party-going or study or work, and six hours sleep, we are old men at fifty, with gray hair, diseased bodies, ready to drop into the grave. This is unnatural. It is a sin, it is suicide, it is self-destruction inch by inch. One of its attend-ant evils is an alarming use of stimulants to keep up this feverish and unnatural life. Moral law holds men responsible for suicide. It pronounces upon the self-destroyer the most hopeless and eternal woes. But there is no practical difference between him who sends a bullet whizzing through his brain and him who deliberately takes his life day by day, through a dozen years. We cannot look for the best results in such a hurrying, bustling, unnatural world as this in which we Americans live. I utter my most solemn protest against our entering this tide that is hopelessly sweeping a whole race to premature death. We need more leisure and more rest. We need plain food, well cooked, and time to eat it. We need exercise in the open air, where the life-giving winds are laden with health. We need eight hours a night healthy sleep before we can hope to keep our bodies up to the demands laid upon them in this day of exhausting toil. The daily record of those who die from overwork and lack of rest is something appalling. Is the best talent of America to die henceforth, in the bloom of man-hood, from heart disease and apoplexy?
In the community at large there is a lamentable lack of moral susceptibility in regard to the physical sins which undermine the health. People smile upon and pity and cajole the victims of physical vice, when they ought to meet it with their stern displeasure. Society at large is morally diseased upon grave questions that lie nearest to the health and happiness of mankind. There is brutal ignorance everywhere of the most common sanitary laws and still more brutal indifference among all classes. When every eighth man in America is an habitual drunkard, when every sixth person is an opium eater, when every fourth woman is a victim of hysteria and nervous disease, when every third man is a slave to the tobacco habit, when all are inhumanly careless of the laws of life, it is time for some one to preach the gospel of good health. It is time to say that the prevailing practices are suicidal and wicked.
There are those who loudly decry the fact that a few thousands of people are coming to our shores each year from foreign countries. These men tell us that our American-born are to be overshadowed and borne down by the mighty tide of immigration from over the sea. But if we were true to ourselves and true to our health and vigor we might let them come. We shall survive if we let their beer cup, their clay pipe, and their licentiousness alone. American society is not deteriorating because they are here, but because the fancy sins of European life are so gladly welcomed here. We have naturalized the beer garden, the brothel, the French heel and the corset, and we are paying a fearful price in crime, disease and untimely death. Physical vice destroys the body and makes the face look like a burned and desolate city. But it does more; it destroys the God-given powers of the mind by planting poison at the centers of life, and at last it wrecks the soul and writes failure on the tombstone of a ruined life. We cannot understand too well nor heed too carefully the laws which govern physical health.