T0 sum it all up, the nerves are conductors for impression and expression. As channels, they should be as free as Emerson’s “smooth hollow tube,” for transmission from without in, and from within out. Thus the impressions will be clear, and the expressions powerful.
The perversions in the way of allowing to the nerves the clear conducting power which Nature would give them are, so far as the body is concerned, unnecessary fatigue and strain caused by not resting entirely when the times come for rest, and by working with more than the amount of force needed to accomplish our ends,–thus defying the natural laws of equilibrium and economy. Not only in the ways mentioned do we defy these most powerful laws, but, because of carelessness in nourishment and want of normal exercise out of doors, we make the establishment of such equilibrium impossible.
The nerves can never be open channels while the body wants either proper nourishment, the stimulus that comes from open air exercise, perfect rest, or true economy of force in running the human machine.
The physical training should be a steady shunning of personal perversions until the nervous system is in a natural state, and the muscles work in direct obedience to the will with the exquisite co-ordination which is natural to them.
The same equilibrium must be found in the use of the mind. Rest must be complete when taken, and must balance the effort in work,–rest meaning often some form of recreation as well as the passive rest of steep. Economy of effort should be gained through normal concentration,–that is, the power of erasing all previous impressions and allowing a subject to hold and carry us, by dropping every thought or effort that interferes with it, in muscle, nerve, and mind. The nerves of the senses must be kept clear through this same ability to drop all previous impressions.
First in importance, and running all through the previous training, is the use of the will, from which all these servants, mental and physical, receive their orders,–true or otherwise as the will itself obeys natural and spiritual laws in giving them. The perversions in the will to be shunned are misuse of muscles by want of economy in force and power of direction; abuse of the nervous system by unwisely dwelling upon pain and illness beyond the necessary care for the relief of either, or by allowing sham emotions, irritability, and all other causes of nervous distemper to overcome us.
The remedy for this is to make a peaceful state possible through a normal training of the physique; to realize and follow a wholesome life in all its phases; to recognize daily more fully through obedience the great laws of life by which we must be governed, as certainly as an engineer must obey the laws of mechanics if he wants to build a bridge, that will stand, as certainly as a musician must obey the laws of harmony if he would write good music, as surely as a painter must obey the laws of perspective and of color if he wishes to illuminate Nature by means of his art.
No matter what our work in life, whether scientific, artistic, or domestic, it is the same body through which the power is transmitted; and the same freedom in the conductors for impression and expression is needed, to whatever end the power may be moved, from the most simple action to the highest scientific or artistic attainment.
The quality of power differs greatly; the results are widely different, but the laws of transmission are the same. So wonderful is the unity of life and its laws!