THAT poetic old doctrine of hell-fire which is so much ridiculed nowadays had in it at least one praiseworthy element. It taught men to model their every-day lives on considerations of future weal or woe. Without carrying this idea into the speculative region of future existence, a striking counterpart is to be found in the physical, and incidentally the mental and moral, life of the present generation. It has been axiomatic ever since the days of Solomon that a man must suffer in this life, if not in the next., for any persistent disregard of the great laws of health and morality.
Despite the warnings of philisophers and the advice of physicians, mankind in general continues to ignore the relation of the present to the future. It will persist in dealing only with the things of today, forgetting that what is done now must have an inevitable influence on what is done in years to come. This is a sermon which has been dinned into the ears of people from the days of Epictetus down to the latest writer on the right way to live, and yet it seems to fall fresh on the ears of listeners still. It is Hammerton who brings home in a lucid way the brevity of time and the need for rounding out each day’s existence so that the whole of life may be harmonious. He takes his illustration from the field of reading. Many a man in his view is postponing his acquaintance with the great books of the world until a more convenient season. Perhaps he is accumulating a library which he fondly hopes to study when business cares begin to let up. To such a one PTammerton would say, of what avail will the knowledge of these books be when you have retired from the active work of
life and how many of them do you suppose you will be able to read anyway? It will be quite easy for anyone to figure out just how many books he can reasonably expect to read before death comes to terminate his opportunity, and it will be found that the sum-total is very small. How foolish then to forego even the petty chance we now have of adding daily to our store of knowledge.
But it is not of reading or of other mental accomplishments that it is so necessary to speak. These are of only limited appeal. Where everyone is affected is in the department of health. Here the lesson of making one’s life all square every day is very needful. It is reasonable for a man to assume that the psalmist’s three score years and ten will be his, if he but observe the ordinary rules of health. He is entitled to that share of life at any rate. Why then should he not aim to have his years run their course evenly and placidly?
In the latter years of the eighteenth century there attended school in London, two boys who were destined to make names for themselves in the days to come. One youth spent all his spare time poring over books and gorging his mind on all sorts of bookish learning. The other spurned books and roamed the country whenever opportunity offered. The first overbalanced his physical strength; the second apportioned his time more evenly to study and to bodily exercise. The results of the two kinds of life soon made themselves apparent. The first youth became a man subject to all manner of distressing bodily ailments and died at a comparatively early age. The second developed into a robust.
manhood and lived to a ripe old age. The two were Coleridge and W ordsworth.
A business man will often say, “I must put this matter through this week; the whole success of my business depends on it.” He will work nights; he will gulp down his meals and in general will run himself to the verge of a nervous breakdown. Such examples are not far to seek ; they are to be met with every day. Bui what’s the good of it? True, there are necessarily cases demanding expedition and these must be excepted, but taken all in all, most of these rush jobs, which oftentimes become chronic, are unnecessary when viewed from the proper standpoint. WThat does it avail a man if, in order to accomplish one petty little undertaking, he permanently injures his health and reduces his life—the years when he might enjoy living—thereby? It is suicidal.
It is just because practically everybody forgets this, that there are so many books of warning written and the subject is never allowed to grow cold. Arnold Bennett has been saying the same thing in a recent book but in a new way which is decidedly impressive. He points out that in the matter of time everybody, be he rich in worldly goods or not, has been served with precisely the same amount. Each and all of us has been given twentyfour hours of it a day and it is ours to do with it as we please. This precious possession is too often thoughtlessly frittered away. It is not conserved as a wise man saves his money, apportioning it for present use and future needs. It is not paid out with that regard to economy which characterizes most monetary transactions. In fact, it is not handled as carefully as it should be.
The idea that many people now act on, that the present only is ours and that we should take the best out of it, is only half the truth. If it is followed without any relation to the future, it is liable to lead one into trouble. A man may get into all sorts of harmful excesses through it. But where there is the added influence supplied by the thought that the proper use of the present is going to make for well-being in the future, then it is indeed a safe course to pursue.
A well-rounded day is therefore what everybody siiould aim at, the kind of da) of which may be said when it is over, ‘1 rose with hope and cheerfulness, I worked with thoroughness and enjoyment, I ate my meals with good appetite, I took my recreation with zest, I did a kindness when I could and 1 learned a few useful things.” That is the way to live a life which will ensure an even course and a happy one down to old age.
A first essential then is to get the rightperspective at the very beginning of the' day. The waking hour is an importantone. That it should be a reasonably early one is the opinion of most writers on the subject. Sloth in rising will exercise a bad influence all through the day. Think to yourself how much good time you will rescue from the realm of unconsciousness .by rising one or two hours earlier each day for the next year. If you get up at seven instead of eight-, or at six instead of seven, you will save 365 hours or fifteen full days. If you determine to do still better and recover two hours a day, you will be creating for yourself thirty new days, and what cannot a man accomplish in thirty days? One wonders why more people do not go in for time-saving in this way. Of course, it is not intended to advise any serious curtailment of the hours of sleep and a man must preserve a minimum at least for this purpose.
One must learn to control the mind at the moment of waking else it may run riot, and if the subject be dyspeptic, he may begin to harbor all sorts of injurious thoughts and impressions. This tendency can be obviated by fixing on some helpful idea before going to sleep the night before and seizing on it at the moment of coming back to consciousness. Keep the mind firmly fixed on this idea until its full meaning sinks in and then you will be able to rise with good resolutions for the day and a right understanding of your relation to life.
Then in working, learn the lesson that a few hours of good hard concentrated work is far better than many hours of worrying, dragging work. Better to work for only three hours a day earnestly and well, than to stick to your desk for eight or ten hours, driving an unwilling brain against its will. Here is where everybody
nearly makes a mistake. Because work is an essential to existence, a man is liable to consider it the essential, but it is no more an essential than sleep, food or exercise. It should not necessarily take the first place in the system of life, but should be made to conform with the general plan of living. By emphasizing it too strongly, one is liable to kill off by slow degrees those other faculties for improvement and enjoyment which are so needful for a well-rounded life. How many men of thirty or thirty-five are beginning to notice that they no longer take any delight in those pursuits that interested them when younger? They have simply allowed their work to step in and usurp the time which they might have given to recreation, and gradually the habit has grown on them until they are not only careless about other matters but powerless to enjoy them. There must be a daily cultivation of these other matters if they are to become a factor in one’s life.
Rules for eating properly to harmonize the digestive functions with the general scheme of living have been discussed so often and in such varied ways that it seems almost superfluous to dwell upon them here. Suffice it to get this viewpoint— that it is not only expedient to observe those rules for the sake of present advantage, but much more because of their influence on the future. An excess to-day may be rectified to-morrow, but only temporarily, for it will have an undoubted bearing on one’s future health. It is all
very well for the careless man to say that he will let future take care of itself but, unless he is a very extraordinary person, he will bitterly repent that decision when he begins to reap the harvest of his foolishness. Hurried eating may save ten or fifteen minutes to-day, but, if made a habit, it will extort days and perhaps years of efficient life later on. Is it not better then to eat and drink each day bearing this in mind, than to borrow from the future unnecessarily for present expediency?
In the rounding out of daily life for the advantage of future years, recreation must play a leading part. It is as essential to the well-being of all the compnoent parts of man as is food to the body. Everyone must admit that exercise is necessary^ if we would have our system toned up to the proper key to-day. How plain it must be then that it is quite as needful if the body is to remain efficient throughout the term of its years. It may be neglected without apparent ill effects for months and years but in the long run the man who ignores its claims on him will pay dearly for his folly.
In many other directions does this principle apply. Remembering that faculties which are not used become atrophied just as much as physical organs, a man will take heed to his daily habits and observe whether or not he is persistently neglecting those pursuits which are needful if he would have his life run a full and steady course to the end.
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