Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/40

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destroyed by large quantities. Secondly, as to the expression of sensation in motion, small doses of alcohol increase the quickness of that expression; large doses make it slower and more slow, until at last there is no expression. Thirdly, as to the movements themselves, small doses make them more rapid, but less sure of attaining the end sought; large doses tend to make movements impossible. And popular experience bears witness to the truth of these three statements, only the masses can not understand how the rapidity with which action follows impression and rapidity of action itself are increased by small doses, but decreased by larger quantities; and the friends of alcohol have claimed that the difference between small and large doses is real, not of degree, and really distinguishes the moderation of the wise man from the madness of the foolish. But science has proved that this contradiction is only apparent. The same increased rapidity of expression of a sensation is noticed when the brain is stupefied, and the greatest rapidity results when the brain is entirely separated from the other centers. Reflex action is more sudden and more rapid than brain action. So the influence of alcohol is exactly as if the brain were cut away. The man no longer stops to consider the whole situation, to make use of impressions of former experiences stored away in his brain, or weigh present obligations, and the sly saloon-keeper well understands this. The man who would engage another in a brawl or cajole a secret from him knows well how alcohol dethrones reason and loosens the tongue. And as more and more is taken, the stupefying influence reaches lower and lower, until at last even reflex action is imperfect and slow.

If this then is the influence, where is the pleasure in it? It is not my object, however, to depict the dangers and consequences from such disturbance of brain functions, but to ask only in what then consists the pleasure which alcohol brings us? The fact that so many men seek this condition, even passionately seek and value and prefer it to others, must have deep psychological ground. I will only say in passing that men differ as to the particular time of richest delight, some choosing the very beginning, others the time when sleepiness and forgetfulness have come, still others the perfectly senseless condition; but the influence of alcohol is still the same, sometimes on a smaller, sometimes on a larger portion of the nervous system. How does it increase the feeling of happiness? The body uses its powers in resisting the outside forces which act upon it. Normally, there is a balance between body and environment. If environment prevails we are discouraged; if we are able to prevail, our spirits rise and our happiness grows. And it is not for the moment only, but we compare the accumulated impressions of the powers out--