Since the morning stars first sang together no single event has occurred in this earth of ours more significant in its nature and more instructive in its consequences than the rebirth of Hygiene. Hygiene holds out to every human being the most perfect health, the best physical and mental development, the most entire liberty and the most perfect happiness of which man is capable. In that glorious future which is even now, with the aid of our advancing knowledge, opening before us, when man shall live in a day-long, life-long observance of the laws of his being, there shall be no diseased life, no painful death. Such unceasing obedience of the laws of life can result only in health and length of life. Happiness and peace shall reign where now is misery and strife. Beyond that, what is there to be wished for?
We assume radical ground for Hygiene and insist, as we have done for years, that if the Hygienic revolution is permitted to complete itself, it will sweep over the world with its saving message and means. Before it, in its majestic march, the prejudices and false theories of centuries, the passions of the interested, the opposition of physicians and the cynicism of skeptics will fall. The gross habits of the masses, the wretched modes of life of the more particular and select, the thoughtless, careless conduct of the guardians of youth, the prevailing ignorance of the laws of life and the yet worse indifference on the part of those who have been set apart to proclaim to man the "way to heaven," will all be destroyed and a new, fresh, unsophisticated life will evolve. Out of this turbid, dark, half-chaotic mass will evolve good health, physical beauty and intellectual and moral excellence.
What poor creatures are men and women! How little do they do that lasts! They are born, they suffer, they die and are forgotten. They give birth to offspring that suffer and die as they do. How departure from the laws of being has tamed man and shorn him of his pristine glory! How it has destroyed the image of his Maker from his face and left in its place horrible disfigurement! How it has dimmed his eyes and quenched the bright flash these should wear! How it has bowed the back of once majestic man till his carriage resembles that of felon or slave! How it has robbed his heart of noble impulse and planted there instead low desire and passion! How it has transformed man!
With exceptions so rare as to be remarkable, man has presented himself in every phase a creature of low, grovelling appetites and passions, a bond-slave to desires that are abnormal and overpowering. His higher faculties have been subordinated to his propensities, his habits are masters of his principles; his convictions constantly yield to his desires. His aims are low, his gratifications lower; his successes, about which he boasts and swaggers, are sheer fictions; his achievements are practical defeats.
From all this degradation and defilement, from this low tone of existence, this groveling in indulgence, this hibernation in darkness, this sub-bestial life, is there no deliverance? Are no means of redemption at hand? There is the primrose path of self-destruction; is there no straight and narrow way to health and happy old age? Let the truthful answer be to all these questions: yes, there is a way to superior health. To those of us who love our bad habits and who refuse to look at them in the bright light of noonday to see what they really are and who refuse to give them up, either for health or for life, but will die first, there is no redemption. For the rest of us, if we start new and saving habits and keep them growing until they have smothered the bad ones, we will have laid the foundation for future health. When all of mankind has been freed from the thralldom of disease-producing habits
And from fashion's iron sway
Shall the race, in pristine vigor,
Go rejoicing on their way.
Those grand engines of oppression--"the iron trammels of despotic government, the brazen chains of intellectual tyranny, the mountain pressure of ancient customs"--pervert the noblest impulses of the human heart, paralyze the highest aspirations of the human intellect and crush and dwarf humanity itself. Remove these and the repressed image of God (man) rises up and asserts his dignity, develops his highest nature and achieves his destiny. Give man freedom (he cannot be independent) and he will work out his own salvation.
A revolution involving a modification of nearly all of our habits--voluntary habits, social usages and many of our established institutions and large-scale industries--is not begun and completed in a single generation. But, after centuries of ignorance, disease and crime, mankind is again on the road to health. What a blessing is health and what is life without it, but a miserable dragging out of existence without pleasure or enjoyment! It is quite true that but relatively few of those now living have tasted the virtue of the Hygienic System and know its value. But the number is increasing.
How little can a human being know of his own nature, his powers, his relations, his destiny, while all his energies are crushed by dissipating government, his aspirations worked to suit particular creeds and his actions interpreted by the false standards which ignorance and tyranny have established and consecrated!
We view the progress of Hygiene, with the science and philosophy upon which it is based, as being at the very foundation of all progress. The first object of a sick man is health and he can do nothing effectual in the way of bettering his condition, in other respects, until he has gotten rid of his diseases. So with the sick world--its first want is health; with that will go vigor, clear-sightedness and a capacity for all other progress. Give the world health and you give it capacity for every kind of physical and moral improvement.
Men pray for a home of beauty, one in which there will be no violence and suffering, yet they turn the earth into a shambles and destroy the beauty that surrounds them. They long for freedom and bow to the power of state and church--to the forces of repression, suppression and compression. Men can be more than they are. They can recapture the joyous exuberance of life that our primitive ancestors knew. When that happy day arrives the sick will hold a jubilee and earth will look more joyous than ever. Then where weakness now is, there shall be strength; where there is now weariness, shall be repose; where haggardness now is, shall be beauty; where sickness now is, shall be health. Such an existence as we have pictured will be a satisfying foretaste of that future Utopia or Eden for which humanity has longed since the dawn of history.
Our highest ideals, whether of manhood and womanhood or of institutions and life, are merely foreshadowings of possible realities. The wildest speculations of one age become the common-place facts of the next. We may seek every day for the perfect man and woman; but we are not, therefore, justified in declaring that they are never to be found. Perfection comes within the range of human capability. It is a possibility for the race if not for the individual. "There is no telling what tall oak may grow from this little acorn, especially if it is warmed with golden sunshine and watered with silver showers."