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die. The man that guides the operations of his own mind, is either to a certain degree in bodily health, or in that health of mind which shall for a longer or shorter time stand forward as the substitute of the health of the body. When we die, we give up the game, and are not disposed to contend any further. It is a very usual thing to talk of the struggles of a man in articulo mortis. But this is probably, like so many other things that occur to us in this sublunary stage, a delusion. The bystander mistakes for a spontaneous contention and unwillingness to die, what is in reality nothing more than an involuntary contraction and convulsion of the nerves, to which the mind is no party, and is even very probably unconscious.—But enough of this, the final and most humiliating state through which mortal men may be called on to pass.
I find then in the history of almost every human creature four different states or modes of existence. First, there is sleep. In the strongest degree of contrast to this there is the frame in which we find ourselves, when we write, or invent and steadily pursue a consecutive train of thinking unattended with the implements of writing, or read in some book of science or otherwise which calls upon us for a fixed attention, or address ourselves to a smaller or greater audience, or are engaged in animated conversation. In each of these occupations the mind may emphatically be said to be on the alert.
But there are further two distinct states or kinds of mental indolence. The first is that which we frequently experience during a walk or any other species of bodily exercise, where, when the whole is at an end, we scarcely recollect any thing in which the mind has been employed, but have been in what I may call a healthful torpor, where our limbs have been sufficiently in action to continue our exercise, we have felt the fresh breeze playing on our cheeks, and have been in other respects in a frame of no unpleasing neutrality. This may be supposed greatly to contribute to our bodily health. It is the holiday of the faculties : and, as the bow, when it has been for a considerable time unbent, is said to recover its elasticity, so the mind, after a holiday of this sort, comes fresh, and with an increased alacrity, to those occupations which advance man most highly in the scale of being.
But there is a second state of mental indolence, not so complete as this, but which is still indolence, inasmuch as in it the mind is passive, and does not assume the reins of empire. Such is the state in which we are during our sleepless hours in bed; and in this state our ideas, and the topics that successively occur, appear to go forward without remission, while it seems that it is this busy condition of the mind, and the involuntary activity of our thoughts, that prevent us from sleeping.
The distinction then between these two sorts of indolence is that in the latter our ideas are perfectly
distinct, are attended with consciousness, and can, as we please, be called up to recollection. This therefore is not what we understand by reverie. In these waking hours which are spent by us in bed, the mind is no less busy, than it is in sleep during a dream. The other and more perfect sort of mental indolence, is that which we often experience during our exercise in the open air. This is of the same nature as the condition of thought which seems to be the necessary precursor of sleep, and is attended with no precise consciousness.
By the whole of the above statement we are led to a new and a modified estimate of the duration of human life.
If by life we understand mere susceptibility, a state of existence in which we are accessible at any moment to the onset of sensation, for example, of pain-in this sense our life is commensurate, or nearly commensurate, to the entire period, from the quickening of the child in the womb, to the minute at which sense deserts the dying man, and his body becomes an inanimate mass. But life, in the emphatical sense, and par
excellence, is reduced to much narrower limits. From this species of life it is unavoidable that we should strike off the whole of the interval that is spent in sleep; and thus, as a general rule, the natural day of twenty-four hours is immediately reduced to sixteen.
Of these sixteen hours again, there is a portion
that falls under the direction of will and attention, and a portion that is passed by us in a state of mental indolence. By the ordinary and least cultivated class of mankind, the husbandman, the manufacturer, the soldier, the sailor, and the main body of the female sex, much the greater part of every day is resigned to a state of mental indolence. The will does not actively interfere, and the attention is not roused. Even the most intellectual beings of our species pass no inconsiderable portion of every day in a similar condition. Such is our state for the most part during the time that is given to bodily exercise, and during the time in which we read books of amusement merely, or are employed in witnessing public shews and exhibitions.
That portion of every day of our existence which is occupied by us with a mind attentive and on the alert, I would call life in a transcendant sense. The rest is scarcely better than a state of vegetation.
And yet not so either. The happiest and most valuable thoughts of the human mind will sometimes come when they are least sought for, and we least anticipated any such thing. In reading a romance, in witnessing a performance at a theatre, in our idlest and most sportive moods, a vein in the soil of intellect will sometimes unexpectedly be broken up, "richer than all the tribe” of contemporaneous thoughts, that shall raise him to whom it occurs, to a rank among his species altogether different from any thing he had looked for. Newton
was led to the doctrine of gravitation by the fall of an apple, as he indolently reclined under the tree on which it grew. “A verse may find him, who a sermon flies.” Polemon, when intoxicated, entered the school of Xenocrates, and was so struck with the energy displayed by the master, and the thoughts he delivered, that from that moment he renounced the life of dissipation he had previously led, and applied himself entirely to the study of philosophy.
-But these instances are comparatively of rare occurrence, and do not require to be taken into the account.
It is still true therefore for the most part, that not more than eight hours in the day are passed by the wisest and most energetic, with a mind attentive and on the alert. The remainder is a period of vegetation only. In the mean time we have all of us undoubtedly to a certain degree the power of enlarging the extent of the period of transcendant life in each day of our healthful existence, and causing it to encroach upon the period either of mental indolence or of sleep.-— With the greater part of the human species the whole of their lives while awake, with the exception of a few brief and insulated intervals, is spent in a passive state of the intellectual powers. Thoughts come and go, as chance, or some undefined power in nature may direct, uninterfered with by the sovereign will, the steersman of the mind. And often the understanding appears to be a blank, upon which if any im