Strengthening the Eyes

by Bernarr A. MacFadden, Strengthening the Eyes; A System of Scientific Eye Training.


Strong, Beautiful Eyes

Of microscopic power, that would discern
The population of a dewdrop.


IT is undoubtedly true that man comes into more intimate contact with the outer world through the sense of sight than through any other, or perhaps through all the others combined. In the case of the other senses, outside impressions: or "stimuli" seem to come to the man—to impinge upon him, as it were; but in the case of sight, he apparently goes outside himself, and actually seems to project himself into the outer world—seeing what is there, actually existing. We know now that this subjective impression of the facts is not true; but the feeling is there none the less. We can also direct or govern the sense of sight more fully than any other. We can "turn away" from sights we do not wish to see, while we cannot readily stop listening to sounds we do not like or shut out smells which are disagreeable to us. Sight seems to be, more than any other sense, in touch with the true personality—the godlike self within.

Yet, in spite of their great value, the eyes are among the most delicate organs in the human body. They are composed largely of liquid, are extremely sensitive, and can very readily be destroyed altogether. It is only the marvelous protective measures of nature which prevent a greater number of fatal injuries to these organs.

Man, more than any other animal, depends upon his sense of sight, for in his case the other senses, such as smell and hearing, are more or less "atrophied," or stunted, as compared with their keenness in other animals. They are sometimes almost lost through lack of use. To a certain extent this is true of the sense of sight also, but it is less true here than in the other instances, the conditions of modern life requiring the almost constant use of the organs of vision.

The eye in the lower animal, as well as in man, is one of the most highly specialized structures in the body, and so wonderful in contrivance that it is rightfully alluded to as one of the marked instances of the beneficences of God as displayed in creation. Yet, in spite of the profundity of the researches which the ingenious mind of man has made, of late years, in the domain of science, this most important and wonderful organ has not received the amount of attention given to many other subjects.

Not only are the eyes important in themselves, but if they are strained or injured they in turn affect the general nervous system. It must be remembered that what we call "the eye" is only the eyeball; the whole optical apparatus is far more extensive than this, and is hidden away in and back of the socket, including a part of the brain itself. By means of the optic nerve the eye proper is connected with the sight-centers in the brain; and, again, the eye is nourished by the blood, which circulates to and in these parts. All treatment of the eyes must, in a certain sense, be constitutional (that is, general) and not local only. The latter method of treatment would be very inadequate, failing to take into account the fundamental fact that the eyes are a part of the body and dependent upon and influenced by it.

Emotions and expressions are mirrored in the eye. The "love light in the eye" has been the theme of amatory verse in all ages and times, and throughout literature we find endless references to the expression of the varying emotions of the human soul by the eyes. Passionate, burning, cruel, mystic, gentle, cunning, hot, cold, etc., are among the adjectives applied to them. The character is depicted by the eye more plainly, perhaps, than by any other organ of the body, courage, dignity and power being expressed by the organs of vision when other external indications of these attributes are lacking.

Yet, though these varying emotions and expressions can doubtless be read in the eyes, it is extremely difficult to say just how and why the eyes betray and portray them.

Some authors are of the opinion that the eye itself never changes, but only the muscles directly around it. "These muscles vary the expression," and the theory seems to be more or less borne out by the fact that, in many cases, if the parts adjacent to the eyes be covered up, no change of expression can be detected. Other authors, on the contrary, contend that the eye itself changes in expression and have advanced arguments which seem to prove it. This is an interesting line of inquiry which the student might follow for himself with interest and profit.

The eye, to be beautiful, must be clear. It must be free from defects, such as squint or dullness; the lashes must be of the proper length, the lids healthy and the whites free from the discolorations of impure blood. A perfect digestion, a healthy and energetic circulation of the blood, a delicate nervous poise, are all physical prerequisites to beautiful eyes. Form, color and size avail nothing without the luster and brilliancy of expression imparted by general physical health and tone, and though the shape and color of the eyes can never be changed, they can be greatly improved in appearance by the rational system of constitutional and hygienic treatment to be considered later.

The unfortunate tendency of modern medical science is to specialize too much; and under the influence of this tendency, general conditions are often ignored. In the majority of cases the eye specialists are no exception to this rule. They are too often inclined to treat the eye along purely local lines, instead of recognizing that it is a part of the general nervous system and treating it also along constitutional lines. Effects have been treated instead of causes; yet is is plain that the causes must be removed if we are ever to cure the effects.

The prevalence of defective eyesight is indeed alarming, did we but realize it. It has been estimated that from 25 to 50 per cent of the inhabitants of the United States are more or less short-sighted—to cite this one defect alone. At the lowest possible estimate, therefore, at least 25,000,000 people in this country suffer from myopia, and probably a good many more than this! And if, to this, we add those suffering from hypermetropia (or far-sight), presbyopia (old-age sight), astigmatism, squint, color-blindness and other defects of vision, we are surely safe in saying that the great majority of the inhabitants of America are afflicted with imperfect vision, and all the ills that follow in consequence.

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