The Need Of Physical Health
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
When men build a splendid temple, they dig deep and lay a wide foundation. This is, indeed, subordinate to the superstructure, but still a most important part of the edifice. It does not show, nor is it seen, deep down in the dampness and darkness of the bed-rock ; yet, with its massive supports, it holds the whole weight of the temple, as it rests "on the base of the world," A similar relation holds between a man's mind and body, between his mental activity and physical vitality. To think a great thought, the brain must be fed with animal blood. To think such thoughts continuously and group them into a gigantic enterprise the brain must be continuously fed with healthy blood oxygenated by pure air and supplied by the healthful assimilation of nourishing food. The lines of Homer swelling with Olympian music, the masterpieces of Raphael and Angelo, the heaven-inspired song of Milton, the rounded periods of the orators were "inspired by many a heart throb " and depend for their excellence upon the vitality and vigor of those who produced them.
Men are coming more and more to believe that there is a vital connection between capacious lungs and large brain power, between a strong body and high intellectual activity. Henry Ward Beecher, in commenting upon this to the students of Yale College, said : "It is generally conceded that the functions of emotion, intelligence and sensation belong to the nervous system and that it is intimately connected with the whole circulation of the blood, with the condition of the blood as affected by the liver, and by aeration in the lungs. The manufacture of blood is dependent upon the stomach, so that a man is what he is, not in one part or another, but all over. One part is intimately connected with the other from the animal stomach to the throbbing brain; and when a man thinks, he thinks the whole trunk through." The mind and will no doubt are the truly regal part of man's nature ; but for these to rule supreme there is need of strong arms and active feet to do the menial tasks of life.
In any vocation, there are heavy burdens to bear and long hours of closest application, lengthening out into weeks and years, and the major part of any man's success is the physical stamina to endure a long strain of continuous toil. Muscles of steel and nerves of whipcord are needed everywhere. Not alone by the sturdy man who stands at the-forge and swings his blacksmith's hammer, but as well by the one who sits at his desk in the office and does the thinking for a vast enterprise. The small man or the weak one has little chance of success in the exhausting toil of the present day. He is pushed aside or crushed to death by the strong men, thronging every avenue to fame and fortune. We look to the men of broad shoulders and capacious lungs to carry forward the great enter. prises of the future. The world hates incompetence, and it hates the incompetence of weakness as much as that of ignorance. "Upon men of iron frame fall, and will always fall, the heavy tasks of life, and where these fall the rich rewards fall too." A successful life, there-fore, must have an adequate foundation in physical health.
In the work of the world the main thing is power power to judge wisely and to think well ; power to reason correctly and reach logical conclusions; power to endure the severest strain of labor and keep a clear head and a sweet heart ; above all, power of self-control to hold all subordinate faculties to their proper sphere and their proper work. In the highest and best sense, success is power—power "to bring things to pass." But, by far, the greater part of this working power is mere physical endurance, the immense energy, hid away in strong sinews and healthy blood. To quote again from the same address of Mr. Beecher "Man's power comes from the generating forces that are in him, namely, the digestion of nutritious food and vitalized blood, made fine by oxygenation ; an organization by which that blood has free course to flow and be glorified ; a neck that will allow the blood to run up and down easily ; a brain properly organized and balanced ; the whole system so compounded as to have susceptibilities and recuperative force; immense energy to generate resources and facility to give them out-all these elements go to determine what a man's working power is."
There is a sense in which might still rules the world, not the might of battle ; not the might of impaling men with spears, hacking them with battle axes and slaying with the sword ; but might of arm and strength of manhood directed to the legitimate tasks of a high calling; strong shoulders carrying the burdens and doing the work of a high and noble purpose. It is here that the giant still wins the priceless prizes of life. Surely, for any practical purpose which we may name, a clear head is better than one dizzy with perpetual vertigo; a body with the soundness of health in it is better than one racked by neuralgia or drawn by chronic rheumatism ; a brain with clear and glorious thought, the offspring of the life-giving breezes, is better than the misanthropy and darkness of dyspepsia. A sound mind in a sound body has ever been the human ideal.