Sympathetic Nervous System.
The, object of this system seems to be to bind all parts of the body together, and to combine and harmonize their actions. It takes care that no part of the system acts in such a way as to injure any other part. It exerts a controlling influence over digestion, nutrition, absorption, the circulation, etc. These are natural processes which need to go on while the brain is asleep and cannot attend to them. The nervous system, of which I speak, presides over all those func-tions which are called involuntary, - so called because no act of the will is needed for their performance. Secretion, absorption, digestion, and the circulation of the blood, all have to go on while we sleep, as well as while we wake. Were an act of the will necessary to their performance, as in walking, eating, conversing, etc., then they would have to cease the moment the brain fell asleep, and death would be the result.
The sympathetic nerves apprise each part of the system of the condition and wants of every other part. When the lungs are in. flamed, the stomach seems to be aware of it, and will receive no food, because this would aggravate the disease of the neighboring organs. Well would it be if human beings would exercise a like forbearance, and abstain from those acts of self-gratification which they know will injure their neighbors.
Effects of Nervous Diseases. - Before closing these observations, I wish to add a few words respecting the terrible effects of nervous diseases which characterize the present time.
That they are far more numerous and afflictive than in former years, must be apparent to the most careless observer. They are nothing more nor less than the price we pay for a high civilization, and especially for our democracy. Among us, every man feels his individuality, and has a motive for thinking and doing his best. Thought and action are here unfettered; and if the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, every man acts as though he thought it was. The great excitement which the struggle for wealth kindles and inflames, deranges and shatters the nervous system to a shocking degree.
And wealth, when obtained, does its full share to weaken the nerves. It brings with it high living, indolence, loss of energy, dis-sipation, and a weakening of the whole moral and physical powers. It need not do this; but, in most cases, it does.
The result is, that, at least, every other person has some nervous disease, which makes life a misery rather than a blessing. The brain and nerves are too much developed in comparison with the develop-ment of the muscles. Half our boys and girls have heads as large as men and women. It is common to see a boy or a girl at ten talk-ing and acting like a man or woman. I do not mean by this, that they imperfectly imitate the actions of older persons, It seems to be natural to them. Their brains are prematurely developed, and their acts and thoughts have the maturity of adult life.
What is Coming? -What will be the result of this state of things, no man can predict. I sometimes think the race will break down; that that which was intended to be its ornament and strength will be its destruction. I hope not. Yet there is danger of it. Nothing can save us but the wisdom to adopt such means as will develop all parts of the system alike. No race of men can stand for many generations such a strain upon the nervous system, unless bet-ter means are adopted to counterbalance its evil effects than are now used in the United States. We have got to pause in our swift career, and look after our health, or we shall become a nation of maniacs. No proof is needed of what is here said.
Hopeful Considerations. - It is proper to say, the considerations here presented, terrible as they are, are mitigated in some measure by others of a more hopeful character. Physiology and the laws of life are now better understood than at any former period. These subjects are getting into our common schools, and are engaging the attention of our youth. Declining health has already made us think more of the means of preserving it, - such as diet, exercise, bathing, traveling, and amusement. To encourage and intensify this hopeful direction of the public mind, I propose to devote a few pages to these subjects.
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