It is a very deplorable aspect of our life that where we need to be thoughtful, we are thoughtless; heedful, we are heedless; cautious, we are risky; comprehensive, we are foolish; where there ought to be knowledge, there is ignorance; where surety, distrust; where regularity, there is dissipation; where we should fast, we eat to excess; where we should live simply, our lives are complex and harassed; when we should sleep, we indulge in revelry and riot; we drink when we should avoid stimulants and narcotics; where we should take only fresh air into our lungs, we smoke tobacco; when we should walk, we ride; where we should be in the open air, we are sitting in a stuffy room; where we should dress lightly, we are smothered in clothing; where our clothes should be loose, they are so tight as to impede circulation; where we should refuse to take drugs, we swallow a miniature drug store; where we should be independent beings, we are under the surveillance of a physician; where we should live for years without an ache or a pain, we go through no day without them and die at a comparatively early age; where health should be the rule and where ill health should be the exception, the converse is true. It should be obvious that whatever may be an individual's capacity for achievement, nothing is so certain to defeat all expectations and render high achievement impossible than ill health. Let ill health render a person incompetent to put his energies and talents to work and nothing but failure can result.
As exact as are the laws of life, they are not difficult to understand and they are not hard to obey; indeed, it is easier to obey them than to violate them. It is easier to live in harmony with the laws of being than to live otherwise; it is easier to do right than to do wrong. This is true because we are constituted to live in this way.
There is a true way of living--a way of living so that human beings may remain in health--a way of living so that those who are sick may evolve into good health. This way of life seeks to conform in all particulars to the laws of being and disdains all efforts to nullify these laws and steal health by illegitimate means. The conditions of health amount to nothing more nor less than a strict observance of the laws which govern and control the living organism. These laws are not hidden, but are clearly written on every page of history; they are indelibly fixed in every vital tissue; they are stamped on every organic instinct, observed in every manifestation of sense and expressed in every action of every mental power.
Are you human? Are you an animal? Are you of the "earth, earthy?" Are you subject to the laws of life? Are you subject to the conditions of life on the earth? Do you have the same physiological needs as the rest of humanity? If you can answer yes to these questions, the message of this book is for you. If you are human, you are subject to laws and conditions, compliance with which will provide for health, vigor and length of life; failure to comply with them will build weakness, disease, misery and shortened life.
Hygiene is a way of life adapted to the needs and conditions of human beings and not to spiritual beings. It is adapted to supply the physiological needs of a living organism, not one that fills the organism with exotic and adventitious materials of a deleterious character. It recognizes man's sicknesses as of mundane origin and not of supernatural causation. The Hygienic life is one of health, with all its pleasures. There is no natural death, save the gradual and painless wearing out of the vital energy in old age. Health is the result of Hygienic living. Disease is the result of accidental, ignorant or willful violation of the laws of nature.
The Hygienist says that, in order to discover the best means of retaining and restoring health, it is necessary to study nature. But, when he says this, he does not mean that we must view the landscape or enjoy the beauties of the evening sunset. Enjoyable as are these activities, they do not lead to an understanding of life and its needs. We must study living nature--life. We must understand the conditions of its existence, the laws of its operations, the requirements of its different modes of activity, the effects of different environments upon the living organism, the effects of its own ways of life upon it, the relation of avocation to health, the relation of occupation to self-expression, the good or evil that it is subjected to and how it meets these, appropriating the one and resisting, expelling or escaping from the other.
We need to know and understand the needs of the body for food, air, water, light, activity, rest and sleep, warmth or coolness, cleanliness, peace and poise, hope and cheer, confidence and faith, friendship and love; we need to know how to adjust these to the varying needs and circumstances of life. We need to know the evils of excess, the damages of fear, anger, worry, anxiety, internal conflicts, of the destructiveness of poisons of all kinds, the impairing influences of deficiencies, the role of sex in life. We need to recognize and know the sequences of cause and effect that we may be in a position to remove the antecedent that its consequence may be ended. This is a study of biology, more properly, of bionomics--Hygienically, a study of orthobionomics.
The laws of nature, as these are manifested on and through the human organism, constitute the only basis on which we can predicate an understanding of the effects of human habits upon health and longevity. Dr. G. H. Taylor emphasized the fact that health and the best means of promoting it cannot be studied in the sick room, but its needs are best ascertained in the most perfectly healthy. By such a study we gain a fair indication of normal wants, thus are able to know what are the real wants of the sick body. The healthy do not shrink from the air they should breathe, nor from the labor they should perform; they do not destroy the proportional elements of the food they should eat, nor do they seek to obtain a fitful, sickly exaltation of their pleasures beyond the range of their real wants.
Health, as previously defined, is maintained by a simple nourishing diet, pure air, exercise, cleanliness and the regulation of the passions. The individual consists of more than a body. The wholesome, natural and due performance of the functions of the mind is equally as important as that of the body. Modern man is a mechanic and a chemist and he interprets life in mechanical and chemical terms. He has lost all touch with nature and with the sources of supply of his basic needs.
We need to be much in the open air, to have all our rooms well ventilated; our windows should be open at top and bottom with no impediment from shades and curtains. Breathe the pure air night and day. We should have our rooms light and airy, should avoid darkness and get all the sunshine we can. The sun is a great fountain of vitality. A correct mode of living is the great fundamental basis of good health. Fresh air, proper food, pure water, sunshine, appropriate exercise, rest and sleep, cleanliness and mental poise are the great essentials of health and long life. With these, we may take the advice of Shakespeare and literally "throw physic to the dogs." Without them, we may poison and carve, dose ourselves with nostrums and abuse ourselves with all the popular therapeutic modalities, both of the regular and irregular schools, exhaust the empire of charlatanism and still remain groaning invalids and crawling wrecks of humanity until death closes the scene.