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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/615

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

from their own symptoms, which, in fact, are so many alarm-signals, but from the obstacle which has forced the vital process to deviate from its normal course. Pain, in all its forms, is an appeal for help, and the urgency of the appeal corresponds to the degree of the distress; probably, also, to the possibility of relieving that distress. A deadly blow stuns the vital forces yield without a struggle. The last stage of pulmonary consumption is a comparatively painless deliquium when a conflagration grows uncontrollable, the alarm-bells cease to ring. Yellow-fever doctors give up their patients for lost when the burning headache changes into a lethargic stupor. The last sensations of drowning, strangled, and freezing persons are said to be rather pleasurable than otherwise. In certain cases the appeal for help continues into an apparently hopeless stage of the disease. Apparently, I say: Nature is too practical to waste her efforts on a forlorn hope; her resistance yields to necessity; and, when the art of healing shall devote itself to the exegesis of disease rather than to the exorcism of its symptoms, that rule will probably be found to apply to pathology as well as to chemistry and ethics.

All bodily ailments are more or less urgent appeals for help; nor can we doubt in what that help should consist. The more fully we understand the nature of any disease, the more clearly we see that the discovery of the cause means the discovery of the cure. Many sicknesses are caused by poisons, foisted upon the system under the name of tonic beverages or remedial drugs; the only cure is to eschew the poison. Others, by habits more or less at variance with the health laws of Nature; to cure such we have to reform our habits. There is nothing accidental, and rarely anything inevitable, about a disease; we can safely assume that nine out of ten complaints have been caused and can be cured by the sufferers (or their nurses) themselves. "God made man upright"; every prostrating malady is a deviation from the state of Nature. The infant, "mewling and puking in its nurse's arms," is an abnormal phenomenon. Infancy should be a period of exceptional health; the young of other creatures are healthier, as well as prettier, purer, and merrier, than the adults, yet the childhood years of the human animal are the years of sorest sickliness; statistics show that among the Caucasian races men of thirty have more hope to reach a good old age than a new-born child has to reach the end of its second year. The reason is this: the health theories of the average Christian man and woman are so egregiously wrong, that only the opposition of their better instincts helps them against their conscience, as it were to maintain the struggle for a tolerable existence with anything like success, while the helpless infant has to conform to those theories with the above results.

"I have long ceased to doubt," says Dr. Schrodt, "that, apart from the effects of wounds, the chances of health or disease are in our own hands; and, if people knew only half the facts point-