Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/504

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

interrupted by regular and systematic recreations. Above all—and it is the most important point—it is necessary to abstain from excess. Moderation, the just mean, which, has been so frequently and so foolishly ridiculed, is in this master, as in many others, true and practical wisdom. Not to force children to excessive work in school, to be able to take rest, to limit our ambition and desires as much as possible, to live for a few hours a day a purely animal existence, are what we ought all to try to do; and we should be recompensed for it very quickly by better moral and physical health. The value of that boon can not be overestimated. If we represent the coefficient of happiness by 100, 95 of the marks should go to health, while fortune and fame would only deserve the other 5. The affair is one of habits rather than of regulation, and legislation can have little effect upon it. Our duty is clear. The first thing is to reform the education of children and youth. Everybody should be made to understand that mental labor can be good only as it is moderate and accompanied by bodily exercise. Bodily activity should be encouraged, class-hours diminished, and play-hours increased. All this appears simple enough, and easy, for everybody is at bottom agreed upon it. They all preach moderation, and it has a fine sound. But is it ever easy to be moderate—that is, wise?

Civilization has certainly enormously extended our knowledge of every kind. A well-informed man to-day must know some three times as much as he would have had to know two hundred years ago; and in another hundred years he will have to know as much more. But there is a limit to our mental capacity. We must learn to restrain ourselves. Instead of being encyclopedists, we shall have to be specialists; and, even in our specialty, will have to moderate our studies. We must never let physical needs—the open air, exercise, and sleep—be sacrificed to the demands of school examinations or the life of society.

We will end with a trite quotation. But trite quotations are the best, because they recall uncontested and incontestable truths. "Man," says Pascal, "is neither an angel nor beast." We shall have to submit to being, partly at least, animals, and consequently to take care of the animal which is half and perhaps a little more than half of ourselves. If the animal suffers, the angel will be ill. The future is for the races that do not sacrifice their bodies.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.

    As he lived in the same house with M. Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire, he sometimes, when about to retire, met his friend going to work; for M. Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire was accustomed to begin at daylight. M. Littré led this laborious life, with inexorable regularity, for more than fifty years.