« AnteriorContinuar »
“ Sleep little,” says Locke : great sleepers become brutalized."
Frequent and daily exercise," says Hippocrates : I know not whether motion be not as necessary for man as food.”
Avoid excess at table: intemperance ruins the constitution, degrades the soul, and beclouds the understanding.
Shun excess in study and meditation. Those who follow intellectual pursuits with immoderate ardour, who prolong their vigils till too late hours, exhaust their powers, and speedily arrive at premature old
Exertion of the mind and inaction of the body carried to excess are alike destructive of the most robust health.
Adopt a due medium in the allotment of your time to the purposes of rest, study, and bodily exercise. Nature exhorts, nay commands you to avoid excess of every kind. Neither too much nor too little is the motto of the wise.
Wear not yourself out by late watching, nor by too long and too intense mental application, nor by dangerous and deceitful pleasures, nor by fatigues disproportionate to your strength. An alternate mixture of daily and moderate exercise, study, and reading, enables you to allow rest by turns to the body and to the mind; and keeps all the faculties in due equilibrium and in a state of progressive improvement. Thus the whole life is usefully employed; and man, exempt from most of the diseases, vices, passions, prejudices, and errors, which torment his fellow-creatures, at once healthy, wise, virtuous, good, and happy, fulfils the purpose for which he was placed upon the earth.
* Some very useful instructions on this point, and many salutary rules relative to health, may be found in the Treatise on the Diseases incident to the Studious, by Tissot, the celebrated physician.
XXVIII. DESTINATION OF MAN.
SINCE we must all alike descend sooner or later to the grave, let us at least strive to perform our task well in our short passage through life; to be happy and to do good; to leave some traces behind us and to deserve some regret. This exhortation we cannot too often
repeat to ourselves : the idea of death should warn us to make a good use of life. This reflection, which ought to govern the employment of a great portion of existence, and which accustoms us to survey with serener eye the termination of our career, apprises us also to limit the circle of our labours, so that
we may have it in our power to complete them all, and to leave here below some actions worthy of remembrance, and some results beneficial to humanity. If each person were to look at his situation and his duties from this point of view, things would go on much better than they do in the world : every one would then contribute to the general welfare; every nation would advance in wealth, in krowledge, and in happiness, by the concurrence of all the individual efforts, directed to one and the same end, though in different spheres. Too often do we forget this duty of humanity, this destination of man, this grand end of society, this real method of ensuring our own happiness by contributing to that of our fellow-creatures. We seclude ourselves and seek our particular advantage at the expense of others. Selfishness, indolence, carelessness; false philosophy, prejudice, ignorance; pride, pusillanimous mediocrity, or vain and inconsiderate presumption ; base malignity, perfidious hypocrisy; ambition, which contracts the heart, when it is confined to narrow views of personal elevation, and limited to the interest of a single individual; but which enlarges the soul when it is noble and pure, when it has for its object the public weal, the advancement of one's country in science, power, knowledge, and consequently in felicity: all these vices, or rather mistakes, some of which have their source in the heart, others in the head, retard the progress of the human race. They prolong the reign of ignorance, of weakness, of corruption, and of all the inveterate and contagious diseases which prevent societies from growing and flourishing. Men who have not duly reflected, who have narrow views, or will not be at the trouble to reflect, who are sluggish and careless, or selfish, or profoundly ignorant, or possessed with systematic and false opinions and gross prejudices, believe these maladies to be incurable, and regard as absolutely impossible what is merely difficult, in consequence of the obstacles created by ourselves. They are not aware of the immense progress that has already been made, though slowly, in the course of ages, or of the still greater, more speedy and more certain advances which might easily be made, by giving a strong and simultaneous impulsion, a judicious, general, uniform, and ever active direction to efforts and passions, to affections and sentiments, to the mind and heart, to the arts and sciences, to the conceptions of genius, to talents of every kind, and to men of all professions and of all classes. I am always brought back to this point : -the more we study in history the course of the human mind, and that of the development and successive periods of societies; the more we consult the philosophers and the profound and judicious writers who have been the oracles of different ages,
the more strongly the possibility, nay even the facility of success seems to be demonstrated.
The successive revolutions of nature and politics have convulsed the globe. The sciences, long confined to Greece, the truly classic soil of genius ;* then stifled for several ages of barba. rism; again issuing triumphant from amidst profound darkness, but, at the period of their arrival, more fertile in vain reasoning and highflown systems than in useful inventions and discoveries; and lastly vivified by a sound philosophy, have accelerated in the greatest part
of Europe the progress of civilisation. The latter, seconded in its turn by the invention of the mariner's compass, by navigation, commerce, the conveyance of letters by post, printing, and the
* The Greeks, had their country produced but a Homer, an Aristotle, and an Hippocrates, would still have been on this account alone an admirable nation. But how many distinguished orators, poets, philosophers, men of science, artists, generals, and legislators, figure in their annals!