An ox and a camel walked together down a road, both driven by the same master. The ox, who was cruelly overloaded, observed the camel advancing with a light step toward him. The weary animal beseeched his fellow traveler to take but a part of his burden. The camel refused saying, “Every beast for himself.‘”
“You selfish fool!” replied the ox. “You will soon find your self carrying not only my part of the load but the entire cargo, and soon after that I’ll ride atop everything.”
As he predicted, the next day the ox collapsed from overwork, and the master placed his butchered body as well as his former load on the camel’s back.
The great Plutarch, author of that fable, thus explained the relationship of the soul and the body. The soul is the camel, and the ox is the body. If the first refuses to lend assistance to the second, the soul will end up losing its own freedom under a double burden of an overloaded body as well as its pains and fatigues. Plutarch there-by concludes that we must work our body and our soul together, driving them harmoniously as if they were two steeds pulling the same carriage. This is the principle and the origin of all known exercises gathered under the name of gymnastics.
Is it, in fact, possible to examine the admirable human machine without recognizing that it is constructed for movement and action? This, above all, has been an immutable law of nature ever since the constellations began revolving in their spheres and the humble ants first burrowed in the earth.
However, since man leads a life that is both corporal and spiritual, physical and moral, Plutarch’s parable is thus made clear. The two natures that form this duality and which are so profoundly distinct in their characters, are however connected so intimately that the action of one is reflected in the other. While everything seems to prove that the spirit is the primary mover of the body, yet it is impos- sible to negate the reciprocal and permanent influence of the body over the spirit. It follows that physical exercise affects the entire man– body and soul–matter and spirit.