- How did this problem arise? Is it true?
- Is it necessary to follow either of the two extremes?
- How I do the lives of great men illustrate this?
- How does science help us to decide on this?
This is a very old dilemma. The ancients were fond of speculating on questions of philosophy, what is the ideal life of man and by what rules should he live? One Latin philosopher wrote, “Conteritur mens, is exerces; nisi exerceas, robiginem contrahit.” The meaning is “If you excercise the mind, it is worn out. If you do not exercise it, it gathers rust.” We are not philosophers, but commonsense will at once reply that he has stated two extremes, and that a well-balanced life consists in avoiding either extreme.
On a glance through the pages of history, we see that the really great have been hard workers, sparing neither mind nor body. The exploits of Shakespeare, have all been the result of straining every effort. Can any great man be named who tried to spare his mind and body so as to live longer? We do not know of one. Some who were men of genius have been lazy, but their lives have rather illustrated the waste of their talents than any triumph of inactivity. Again, which is better, to shorten life by work for others or to live long by retirin into private cloth?
If there has to be one extreme, the hard work or “wearing out” alternative is the better. The body and the mind were given by Nature to be used. Muscles which are not used become soft and flabby, and an idle brain is vacant and distressed. Strong and vigorous exercise, mental and physical, brings man to his maturity and make his. efficient. It is the natural condition of man to make use of all his faculties. How often do we see a man, retiring in reasonable health from his life’s work, go all to pieces as soon as his activities cease? Few wear themselves out by excessive toil, but there would appear to · be less danger in that than in excessive inactivity.
If we had to choose, then, we should choose to wear out. “À crowned hour of glorious life,” the poet tells us, is better than an age without a name. The struggle is tonic, labour has the power of recreating the strength, and mind and body alike flourish and grow strong from being put to full and vigorous use in life.