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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/406

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402
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

will by economy accomplish the full result and not be fatigued—the other works excessively and is wearied. The first is the better for the doing—the second feels exhausted at the end. The nervous system is in continual education from the cradle to the tomb. It is better to maintain constant and accurate though economic functionation. Overuse, or worse, disuse, results in dimming the lamp of life, and the consequence is a marring of the elements of beauty. Complete relaxation or poise is the starting point of all effort.

The most important ground for possible safeguarding and prolonging of human comeliness is by means of securing and maintaining full elasticity of all the tissues. Old age may be described from the standpoint of physiology, as the period of hardening of the structures; it is one of development, not necessarily of decay. This is both inevitable, a normal change, and also there are many threatening exigencies standing ever ready to carry it over to the realm of disease.[1] The prevention, as well as the cure, lies in the deliberate, accurate employment of normal movements. If the activities have been habitually of an objectionable sort, monotonous in character as from labors limited in scope or from choice, or inadequate in variety and character, the tissues acquire stiffness sooner than they should. If the individual has never acquired full symmetric development of muscles, as is true of the large majority, these changes will appear earlier, and become more conspicuous. Again, full muscular balance and competence is conditional upon a certain degree of intelligent direction and impulse. Sensations exist for the specific purpose of inciting us to action, either immediate or remote. If they fail to initiate the proper actions their failure is absolute. Brain exercise of all kinds is accompanied with motor elements; no force is lost. If the associative fibers in the brain are inadequately developed by use and training there must be a deficiency both in motor and in sensory areas. If the early sensory promptings are insufficient in kind and variety there must result inferior human machines. Action of all kinds, mental and muscular, conditioning both efficiency and grace, can only exist in proportion to the power and variety of the stimuli and responsiveness of the centers. Action is the result of memory images, the outcome of sensory promptings. It is efficient if encouraged and is not if these stimuli are neglected or suppressed.

Old age is too often looked upon by those who have reached it as an evil fate to be resented or bewailed. Without combating this view from the standpoint of philosophy, let us reflect rather upon the many instances of beautiful old age which it has been our privilege to know. Is not this picture of well spent years familiar? "She was a wonderful creature with bloom and color, endowed with an intensity,


  1. See The Popular Science Monthly, March, 1904, article by author—subtitle 'Physiology of Decadence.'