Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/55

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45
MODERN TROGLODYTES.

facture of glass, they never used it to obstruct their windows; in all the temples, palaces, and dwelling-houses of antiquity, the apertures provided to admit light admitted fresh air at the same time. The tuguria of the Roman peasants were simply arbors; and the domiciles of our hardy Saxon forefathers resembled the log-cabins of Eastern Tennessee—rough-hewed logs laid crosswise, with liberal interspaces that serve as windows on all sides except that opposed to the prevailing wind, north or northwest, where they are stopped with moss.

Men had to be utterly divorced from Nature before they could prefer the hot stench of their dungeons to the cool breezes of heaven, but our system of ethics has proved itself equal to the task. For eighteen hundred years our spiritual guides have taught us to consider Nature and everything natural as wholly evil, and to substitute therefor the supernatural and the artificial, in physical as well as in moral life. The natural sciences of antiquity they superseded by the artificial dogma, suppressed investigation to foster belief, substituted love of death for love of life, celibacy for marriage, the twilight of their gloomy vaults for the sunshine of the Chaldean mountains, and their dull religious "exercises" for the joyous games of the palæstra. This system taught us that the love of sport and out-door pastimes is wicked, that the flesh has to be "crucified" and the buoyant spirit crushed to make it acceptable to God; that all earthly joys are vain; nay, that the earth itself is a vale of tears, and the heaven of the Hebrew fanatic our proper home.

"The monastic recluse," says Ulric Hutten, "closes every aperture of his narrow cell on his return from midnight prayers, for fear that the nightingale's song might intrude upon his devotions, or the morning wind visit him with the fragrance and the greeting of the hill forests, and divert his mind to earthly things from things spiritual. He dreads a devil wherever the Nature-loving Greeks worshiped a god." These narrow cells, the dungeons of the Inquisition, the churches whose painted windows excluded not only the air but the very light of heaven, the prison-like convent-schools and the general control exercised by the Christian priests over the domestic life of their parishioners, laid the foundation of a habit which, like everything unhealthy, became a second nature in old habitués, and gave birth to that brood of absurd chimeras which, under the name of "salutary precautions," inspire us with fear of the night air, of "cold draughts," of morning dews, and of March winds.

I have often thought that mistrust in our instincts would be the most appropriate word for a root of evil which has produced a more-plentiful crop of misery in modern times than all the sensual excesses and ferocious passions of our forefathers taken together. What a dismal ignorance of the symbolic language by which Nature expresses her will is implied by the idea that the sweet breath of the summer night which addresses itself to our senses like a blessing from heaven could be injurious! Yet nine out of ten guests in an overheated ballroom