Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/334

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
330
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

HOW SHALL THE DESTRUCTIVE TENDENCIES OF MODERN LIFE BE MET AND OVERCOME?
By RICHARD COLE NEWTON, M.D.

WHEN Bichat referred to civilization as 'nothing more than the environment which tends to destroy humankind,' he had in mind, presumably, the so-called civilization of his own time, which we are willing to concede was considerably below that of to-day in every respect and far below that of the Greeks and Romans. To illustrate the superior efficiency of what we may call a natural method of treating diseases over the highly artificial and fanciful methods which prevailed long after Bichat's time, an extract from Higgins's 'Humaniculture' may be paraphrased as follows: It is a matter of record that Augustus Cæsar recovered his health after the expedition into Spain, when suffering from an attack of illness, said to have been due to an inflammation of the liver, by a treatment of baths and an exclusively vegetable diet; whereas, Louis XIV. of France, living 1,600 years later, "in the short space of one year took 215 different medicines, 212 enemata and was bled no less than 47 times." Here is a striking example of progression backwards. As Dr. Higgins sententiously remarks, "A kindly historian would surely take such adverse circumstances into consideration when he gave his judicial opinion on the acts of such unfortunate monarchs."

There are still those who seem to believe that every disease has its appropriate and efficient remedy: a dogma long ago exploded. The only certain remedy for any disease is a man's own vital power. If the body is strong enough and well-nourished enough it will throw off the diseased condition. Drugs, outward applications, mental or spiritual influences, baths, regulation of the diet, ventilation and temperature may be of such efficient and timely aid as to turn the tide of battle from defeat to victory and may help nature to triumph. They, however, are only adjuncts. The natural inherent power of the body itself is the sine qua non, the absolute essential; without which all therapeutic measures whatever will prove unavailing.

Admitting then that this condition of bodily vigor is necessary before we can recover from sickness, or can withstand a severe injury, or shock, is it not possible to so train and develop the body that it will be practically non-susceptible to illness and not only that, but so that it will be far more efficient and enduring for all of life's work than the non-trained or improperly developed body? There can be only one answer to this question.