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Health, or, How to Live

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    HOW TO LIVE [NUMBER SIX]

    OBLIGATIONS TO LAW

    PHYSICAL OBLIGATIONS

    HE who would enjoy perfect health, is obliged to obey organic law; and from this absolute obligation he cannot free himself; for if he transgress physical law, he must endure the infliction of a physical penalty. While the violator of human law may escape the punishment due to his crimes, by keeping them out of sight, or by fleeing from the reach of justice, he who is guilty of transgressing the laws of his own animal economy, cannot escape with impunity — his sin is sure to find him out. Though he may pass on for a while without arrest, yet, sooner or later, he will find himself overtaken, tried before Nature’s court, and condemned.HHTL 337.1

    If we stand in the range of the tornado as it sweeps along its course, can we resist its power? When the engine has accumulated a fierce velocity, can we cast ourselves before it with impunity? Can we stand beneath the weight of the pile-driver as it is loosed from its fastenings, and escape the fatal power of the law of gravitation? Can we cast ourselves from the towering precipice, and not be dashed in pieces? Yes, we may do all this, when nature has so changed that we can violate a single law of our physical being and not suffer damage. Yes, we may, when the God of nature shall repeal the laws which he has set to physical life; or when material things shall cease to be governed by Deity, and be let loose upon the mere contingencies of chance.HHTL 337.2

    The man who, by gradual steps, deviates from the pathway of physical law, may seem to pass on uninjured for a length of time, yet, by and by, he will be sure to feel the rod of punishment. He who disregards dietetic law, may not at first discover any injury, or, should he experience suffering, he may not discover the relation of the cause and the effect, yet the consequences of his unlawful course will, sooner or later, follow, and he cannot escape. The man who habitually steeps himself in alcoholic liquor, or the more deadly essence of tobacco, may possibly live to threescore years and ten, and seem to be tolerably well; yet he has made himself liable to fall suddenly dead, in consequence of the unseen fires that have for years been consuming his internal organs. The man who disobeys law in any other way, may not now see that his system is injured; yet when some outward cause of disease shall approach him, he is overcome by it, simply because his previous habits have weakened the power of resistance in his constitution.HHTL 337.3

    The standard of general health is probably lower in the United States than in any other civilized portion of the world. The average age is probably less than half what it ought to be. And the standard of health and longevity is constantly degenerating. The physical habits of Americans, are more in conflict with natural law, than those of any other civilized nation. The greater part of those who are uncivilized — savage and heathen — are living in less rebellion against their own physical being, than are Americans. Very few die a natural death. The vast majority die of gradual suicide. If the tomb-stones of our grave-yards could bear witness, what would be their testimony? Upon a tomb-stone in New Jersey, there is written under the name of a young lady — “Died of thin shoes;” a declaration which might be truthfully written upon many others. Could they generally speak out as plainly, we should find here, “Died of stimulants,” “Died of narcotics,” — and there, “Died of an abused stomach,” — and almost everywhere, “Died of gradual suicide.”HHTL 338.1

    The author of our being has given to the human constitution, a natural period of existence. But when we commit violence on our own vitality, we shorten its duration. We bring on premature old age, or create, by gradual steps, fatal disease. To die of disease is not, as a general rule, the way to die. We should die as the much-venerated John Quincy Adams died — at his post, in the service of God and humanity, — not of disease, but of age — not because the vital powers had been violated, but because vitality had worn itself out. The men of this generation, die by the violence of their own hands. Their lamp of life goes out, not because the oil is exhausted, but because it has become so adulterated by the admixture of foreign and incongruous elements, that it can no longer burn.HHTL 338.2

    If the term of threescore years and ten, ought to be considered the proper average of healthy human life, we have greatly fallen from the standard. At all events, our average of American life is evidently not one-half what it ought to be. It is said — though we have no very definite data on this point — to be a fraction less than twenty-seven years. And it is evidently growing shorter. The dietetic habits of Americans in some respects, are growing worse and worse. Notwithstanding all temperance light and labors, there is at present an increase of liquor-drinking throughout the land; and tobacco-using is a vice which is becoming more and more deep-rooted and devastating, especially among the young men, and even the boys, of this generation. And unless there shall come a revolution in our American habits, which are forming the basis of physical and moral character, our race will soon come to a physical and moral ruin.HHTL 339.1

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