« ForrigeFortsett »
but how to get and keep that healthy state of brain, stomach, and nerves, which takes away the temptation to ill-temper and anger, is a subject which moral and religious teachers seem scarcely to touch upon.
6. Now, without running into technical, physiological language, it is evident, as regards us human beings, that there is a power by which we live and move and have our being, – by which the brain thinks and wills, the stomach digests, the blood circulates, and all the different provinces of the little man-kingdom do their work. This something-call it nervous fluid, nervous power, vital energy, life-force, or anything else that you will — is a perfectly understood, if not a definable, thing. It is plain, too, that people possess this force in very different degrees; some generating it as a highpressure engine does steam, and using it constantly, with an apparently inexhaustible flow; and others there are who have little, and spend it quickly.
7. We have a common saying, that this or that person is soon used up. Now, most nervous, irritable states of temper are the mere physical result of a used-up condition. The person
has over-spent bis nervous energy, like a man who should eat up, on Monday, the whole food which was to keep him for a week, and go growling and faint through the other days; or the quantity of nervous force which was wanted to carry on the whole system in all its parts, is seized on by some one monopolizing portion, and used up, to the loss and detriment of the rest.
8. Thus, with men of letters, an exorbitant brain expends, on its own workings, what belongs to the other offices of the body: the stomach has nothing to carry on digestion ; the secretions are badly made; and the imperfectly assimilated nourishment, that is conveyed to every little nerve and tissue, carries with it an acid, irritating quality, producing general
restlessness and discomfort. So men and women go struggling on through their three score and ten years, scarcely one in a thousand knowing, through life, that perfect balance of parts, that appropriate harmony of energies, that make a healthy, kindly animal condition, predisposing to cheerfulness and good-will.
XI.—THE SAME SUBJECT CONCLUDED.
1. We Americans are, to begin with, a nervous, excitable people. Multitudes of children, probably the great majority in the upper walks of life, are born into the world with weakness of the nervous organization, or of the brain or stomach, which makes them incapable of any strong excitement, or prolonged exertion, without some lesion or derangement; so that they are continually being checked, laid up, and invalided in the midst of their doings. Life here, in America, is so fervid, so fast, our climate is so stimulating, with its clear, bright skies, its rapid and sudden changes of temperature, that the tendencies to nervous disease are constantly aggravated.
2. Under these circumstances, unless men and women make a conscience, a religion, of saving and sparing something of themselves, expressly for home-life and home-consumption, it must follow that home will often be merely a sort of refuge for us to creep into when we are used up and irritable.
Papa is up and off, after a hasty breakfast, and drives all day in his business, putting into it all there is in him, letting it drink up brain and nerve and body and soul, and coming home jaded and exhausted, so that he cannot bear the cry of the baby, and the frolics and pattering of the nursery seem
horrid and needless confusion. The little ones say, in their plain vernacular, " Papa is cross."
3. Mamma goes out to a party that keeps her up till one or two o'clock in the morning, breathes bad air, eats indigestible food, and the next day is so nervous that every straw and thread in her domestic path is insufferable.
Papas that pursue business thus, day after day, and mammas that go into company, as it is called, night after night - what is there left in or of them to make an agreeable fire-side with, to brighten their home and inspire their children?
True, the man says he cannot help himself,— business requires it. What is the need of rolling up money at the rate at which he is seeking to do it? Why not have less, and take some time to enjoy his home, and cheer up his wife, and form the minds of his children? Why spend himself, down to the last drop, on the world, and give to the dearest friends he has, only the bitter dregs ?
4. Much of the preaching which the pulpit and the church have leveled at fashionable amusements, has failed of any effect at all, because wrongly put. A cannonade has been spent upon dancing, for example, and for all reasons that will pot, in the least, bear looking into. It is vain to talk of dancing as a sin, because practiced in a dying world, where souls are passing into eternity. If dancing is a sin for this reason, so is playing marbles, or frolicking with one's children, or enjoying a good dinner, or doing fifty other things which nobody ever dreamed of objecting to.
5. If the preacher were to say that anything is sin which uses up the strength we need for daily duties, and leaves us fagged out and irritable, at just those times, and in just those places when and where we need most to be healthy, cheerful, and self-possessed, he would say a thing that none
of his hearers would dispute. If he should add that danc. ing-parties beginning at ten o'clock at night and ending at four o'clock in the morning, do use up the strength, weaked the nerves, and leave a person wholly unfit for any
home duty, he would also be saying what very few people would deny; and then his case would be made out. If he would say that it is wrong to breathe bad air and fill the stomach with unwholesome dainties, so as to make one restless, illnatured, and irritable, for days after, he would also say what few would deny, and his preaching might have some hope of success.
6. The true manner of judging of the worth of amusements is to try them by their effects on the nerves and spirits the day after. True amusements ought to be, as the word ind cates, recreation,- something that refreshes, turns uso anew, rests the mind and body by change, and give cheerfulness and alacrity to our return to duty.
The true objection to all stimulants, alcoholic and narcotic, consists simply in this: that they are a form of over-draft on the nervous system, which helps us to use up in one hour : the strength of whole days.
7. A man uses up all the fair legal interest of tio vous power by too much amusement. He has now a demand to meet. He has a complicate account to make up, an essay or a sermon to write, and he primes himself by a cup of coffee, a cigar, and a glass of spirits. This is exactly the procedure of a man who, having used the interest of his money, begins to dip into the principal. The strength a man gets in this way
just so much taken out of his life-blood ; it is borrowing of a merciless creditor, who will exact in time the round of flesh nearest his heart.
XII.- OUR OLDEST FRIEND.
READ AT A MEETING OF FORMER
O. W. HOLMES.
1. I give you the health of the oldest friend