Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The Surest Tonics
Most of the time, the best solution is the simplest solution. And more often than not, the simplest solution is overlooked. Our problems are complex (we think) and therefore (we reason) so must be the solutions to our problems. But as C. H. Spurgeon observes below, sometimes in the grip of despondency we just need to go for a walk in the woods (or a mountain-bike ride in the hills.)
As the "prince of preachers" notes, to not make or take opportunities to refresh ourselves amidst the "fresh air of the hills" is to make of ourselves "a self-immolated victim." God forbid!
"There can be little doubt that sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions…To sit long in one posture, poring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature; but add to this a badly-ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog –
When a blanket wraps the day,
When the rotten woodland drips,
And the leaf is stamped in clay.
Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, [or else] he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a gaol, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy. He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul-grows heavy. A day's breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air; or a stiff walk in the wind's face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.
Heaviest the heart is in a heavy air,
Ev'ry wind that rises blows away despair.
The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops - these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary. For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students)