Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/853

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
nnn
THE PLEASURE OF MOTION.

or a pot of beer would be very nice. So the young man who has been confined too long dreams of canoeing and horseback-riding; before thinking that those exercises will do him good, he pleases himself with representing them to himself. This desire, as it defines itself, becomes more intense; and, if it is opposed, intolerable. At the same time physiological phenomena become apparent, augmenting the uneasiness. A process of nutrition and reintegration is carried on in the muscle during rest. The products of combustion, or the molecules that form stable compounds, are eliminated and replaced by fresh combustible matter, or unstable compounds. The muscle is then in what Rosenthal calls the sensitive condition. The most minute spark will bring on an explosion; the slightest impression will provoke violent reflexes. In such a state we feel nervous, as it is called; or can not keep still. The expression is exact. Our sensitive condition requires the spontaneous movements which the mere idea of motion provokes. A typical example of such suffering from forced rest is afforded by the pupil waiting for school to be dismissed. He feels as if his back was breaking and his legs were growing stiff. When will the bell ring? He wishes with a frantic inclination that he could jump from his seat, shout, and run. He wriggles and drags his feet on the floor. A hard look from the teacher fastens him to his place, and he quiets himself; but what a punishment it is to endure it!

Motion also procures a positive physical pleasure for us. When we give ourselves up to an exercise, or go at anything with great energy, all the functions are accelerated, the heart beats more rapidly, breathing becomes more frequent and deeper, and we experience a general feeling of comfort. We live more, and are happy in living. Rapid and boisterous movements produce also a kind of intoxication and giddiness that have a peculiar charm.[1]

"Let us imagine," says M. Guyau, "what are the feelings of a bird as it opens its wings and glides through the air like an arrow; let us recollect what we ourselves have experienced in being carried by a horse at a gallop, or upon a boat dipping into the hollows of the waves, or in the whirl of a waltz; all these motions evoke in us the undefined idea pf the infinite, of unbounded longing, of superabundant and careless life, a vague rejection of individuality, a craving to go without restraint, to be lost in immensity; and such vague ideas enter as an essential element in the impression which a great number of movements cause us." The observation is correct; but I believe that this kind of pantheistic intoxication is at bottom only a cerebral congestion. A horse,

  1. The modern infatuation for round dances is chiefly explained by this intoxication of dizziness. It is shown in children at a very early age.