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#2632 - Thursday, November, 2, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz


 

Jess writes:

 

Hello Jerry,

 

I would like to let you know I’m most grateful for having came across your awesome website. I’ve been visiting it for what must be close to seven years now.

 

Not long ago I found an essay by Mark Twain which surprisingly I’ve never heard any reference given to with in the world of nonduality (other then naturalistic nondual philosophy.) I wondered if you had not encountered it, at any rate it might make a worthy subject to put on ND Highlights.

 

Twain sure was an interesting fellow!

 

Thanks, Jess

 

http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/mtwain/bl-mtwain-whatisman.htm

 

----------------

 

 

Back in Highlights #1147, Heidi sent an excerpt from the essay Jess refers to, What Is Man? It's a very long essay (didn't Twain get paid by the word?) and only the conclusion is reprinted below.

 

In the excerpt below O.M. refers to Old Man, and Y.M. refers to Young Man. The whole essay can be read here: http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/mtwain/bl-mtwain-whatisman.htm

 

 

 

 


 

Introduction

 

OM: To me, Man is a machine, made up of many mechanisms, the moral and mental ones acting automatically in accordance with the impulses of an interior Master who is built out of born-temperament and an accumulation of multitudinous outside influences and trainings; a machine whose ONE function is to secure the spiritual contentment of the Master, be his desires good or be they evil; a machine whose Will is absolute and must be obeyed, and always IS obeyed.

 

YM: Man has been taught that he is the supreme marvel of the Creation; he believes it; in all
the ages he has never doubted it, whether he was a naked savage, or clothed in purple and
fine linen, and civilized. This has made his heart buoyant, his life cheery. His pride in
himself, his sincere admiration of himself, his joy in what he supposed were his own and
unassisted achievements, and his exultation over the praise and applause which they
evoked--these have exalted him, enthused him, ambitioned him to higher and higher
flights; in a word, made his life worth the living. But by your scheme, all this is
abolished; he is degraded to a machine, he is a nobody, his noble prides wither to mere
vanities; let him strive as he may, he can never be any better than his humblest and
stupidest neighbor; he would never be cheerful again, his life would not be worth the
living.

 


 

 

Excerpt from What Is Man?

 

O.M. You have been taking a holiday?

 

Y.M. Yes; a mountain tramp covering a week. Are you ready to talk?

 

O.M. Quite ready. What shall we begin with?

 

Y.M. Well, lying abed resting up, two days and nights, I have thought over all these
talks, and passed them carefully in review. With this result: that... that... are you
intending to publish your notions about Man some day?

 

O.M. Now and then, in these past twenty years, the Master inside of me has half-intended
to order me to set them to paper and publish them. Do I have to tell you why the order
has remained unissued, or can you explain so simply a thing without my help?

 

Y.M. By your doctrine, it is simplicity itself: outside influences moved your interior
Master to give the order; stronger outside influences deterred him. Without the outside
influences, neither of these impulses could ever have been born, since a person's brain
is incapable or originating an idea within itself.

 

O.M. Correct. Go on.

 

Y.M. The matter of publishing or withholding is still in your Master's hands. If some day
an outside influence shall determine him to publish, he will give the order, and it will
be obeyed.

 

O.M. That is correct. Well?

 

Y.M. Upon reflection I have arrived at the conviction that the publication of your
doctrines would be harmful. Do you pardon me?

 

O.M. Pardon YOU? You have done nothing. You are an instrument--a speaking-trumpet.
Speaking-trumpets are not responsible for what is said through them. Outside influences--
in the form of lifelong teachings, trainings, notions, prejudices, and other second-hand
importations--have persuaded the Master within you that the publication of these
doctrines would be harmful. Very well, this is quite natural, and was to be expected; in
fact, was inevitable. Go on; for the sake of ease and convenience, stick to habit: speak
in the first person, and tell me what your Master thinks about it.

 

Y.M. Well, to begin: it is a desolating doctrine; it is not inspiring, enthusing,
uplifting. It takes the glory out of man, it takes the pride out of him, it takes the
heroism out of him, it denies him all personal credit, all applause; it not only degrades
him to a machine, but allows him no control over the machine; makes a mere coffee-mill of
him, and neither permits him to supply the coffee nor turn the crank, his sole and
piteously humble function being to grind coarse or fine, according to his make, outside
impulses doing the rest.

 

O.M. It is correctly stated. Tell me--what do men admire most in each other?

 

Y.M. Intellect, courage, majesty of build, beauty of countenance, charity, benevolence,
magnanimity, kindliness, heroism, and--and--

 

O.M. I would not go any further. These are ELEMENTALS. Virtue, fortitude, holiness,
truthfulness, loyalty, high ideals-- these, and all the related qualities that are named
in the dictionary, are MADE OF THE ELEMENTALS, by blendings, combinations, and shadings
of the elementals, just as one makes green by blending blue and yellow, and makes several
shades and tints of red by modifying the elemental red. There are several elemental
colors; they are all in the rainbow; out of them we manufacture and name fifty shades of
them. You have named the elementals of the human rainbow, and also one BLEND--heroism,
which is made out of courage and magnanimity. Very well, then; which of these elements
does the possessor of it manufacture for himself? Is it intellect?

 

Y.M. No.

 

O.M. Why?

 

Y.M. He is born with it.

 

O.M. Is it courage?

 

Y.M. No. He is born with it.

 

O.M. Is it majesty of build, beauty of countenance?

 

Y.M. No. They are birthrights.

 

O.M. Take those others--the elemental moral qualities-- charity, benevolence,
magnanimity, kindliness; fruitful seeds, out of which spring, through cultivation by
outside influences, all the manifold blends and combinations of virtues named in the
dictionaries: does man manufacture any of those seeds, or are they all born in him?

 

Y.M. Born in him.

 

O.M. Who manufactures them, then?

 

Y.M. God.

 

O.M. Where does the credit of it belong?

 

Y.M. To God.

 

O.M. And the glory of which you spoke, and the applause?

 

Y.M. To God.

 

O.M. Then it is YOU who degrade man. You make him claim glory, praise, flattery, for
every valuable thing he possesses-- BORROWED finery, the whole of it; no rag of it earned
by himself, not a detail of it produced by his own labor. YOU make man a humbug; have I
done worse by him?

 

Y.M. You have made a machine of him.

 

O.M. Who devised that cunning and beautiful mechanism, a man's hand?

 

Y.M. God.

 

O.M. Who devised the law by which it automatically hammers out of a piano an elaborate
piece of music, without error, while the man is thinking about something else, or talking
to a friend?

 

Y.M. God.

 

O.M. Who devised the blood? Who devised the wonderful machinery which automatically
drives its renewing and refreshing streams through the body, day and night, without
assistance or advice from the man? Who devised the man's mind, whose machinery works
automatically, interests itself in what it pleases, regardless of its will or desire,
labors all night when it likes, deaf to his appeals for mercy? God devised all these
things. _I_ have not made man a machine, God made him a machine. I am merely calling
attention to the fact, nothing more. Is it wrong to call attention to the fact? Is it a
crime?

 

Y.M. I think it is wrong to EXPOSE a fact when harm can come of it.

 

O.M. Go on.

 

Y.M. Look at the matter as it stands now. Man has been taught that he is the supreme
marvel of the Creation; he believes it; in all the ages he has never doubted it, whether
he was a naked savage, or clothed in purple and fine linen, and civilized. This has made
his heart buoyant, his life cheery. His pride in himself, his sincere admiration of
himself, his joy in what he supposed were his own and unassisted achievements, and his
exultation over the praise and applause which they evoked--these have exalted him,
enthused him, ambitioned him to higher and higher flights; in a word, made his life worth
the living. But by your scheme, all this is abolished; he is degraded to a machine, he is
a nobody, his noble prides wither to mere vanities; let him strive as he may, he can
never be any better than his humblest and stupidest neighbor; he would never be cheerful
again, his life would not be worth the living.

 

O.M. You really think that?

 

Y.M. I certainly do.

 

O.M. Have you ever seen me uncheerful, unhappy.

 

Y.M. No.

 

O.M. Well, _I_ believe these things. Why have they not made me unhappy?

 

Y.M. Oh, well--temperament, of course! You never let THAT escape from your scheme.

 

O.M. That is correct. If a man is born with an unhappy temperament, nothing can make him
happy; if he is born with a happy temperament, nothing can make him unhappy.

 

Y.M. What--not even a degrading and heart-chilling system of beliefs?

 

O.M. Beliefs? Mere beliefs? Mere convictions? They are powerless. They strive in vain
against inborn temperament.

 

Y.M. I can't believe that, and I don't.

 

O.M. Now you are speaking hastily. It shows that you have not studiously examined the
facts. Of all your intimates, which one is the happiest? Isn't it Burgess?

 

Y.M. Easily.

 

O.M. And which one is the unhappiest? Henry Adams?

 

Y.M. Without a question!

 

O.M. I know them well. They are extremes, abnormals; their temperaments are as opposite
as the poles. Their life-histories are about alike--but look at the results! Their ages
are about the same--about around fifty. Burgess had always been buoyant, hopeful, happy;
Adams has always been cheerless, hopeless, despondent. As young fellows both tried
country journalism--and failed. Burgess didn't seem to mind it;
Adams couldn't smile, he
could only mourn and groan over what had happened and torture himself with vain regrets
for not having done so and so instead of so and so--THEN he would have succeeded. They
tried the law-- and failed. Burgess remained happy--because he couldn't help it.
Adams
was wretched--because he couldn't help it. From that day to this, those two men have gone
on trying things and failing: Burgess has come out happy and cheerful every time;
Adams
the reverse. And we do absolutely know that these men's inborn temperaments have remained
unchanged through all the vicissitudes of their material affairs. Let us see how it is
with their immaterials. Both have been zealous Democrats; both have been zealous
Republicans; both have been zealous Mugwumps. Burgess has always found happiness and
Adams unhappiness in these several political beliefs and in their migrations out of them.
Both of these men have been Presbyterians, Universalists, Methodists, Catholics--then
Presbyterians again, then Methodists again. Burgess has always found rest in these
excursions, and
Adams unrest. They are trying Christian Science, now, with the customary
result, the inevitable result. No political or religious belief can make Burgess unhappy
or the other man happy. I assure you it is purely a matter of temperament. Beliefs are
ACQUIREMENTS, temperaments are BORN; beliefs are subject to change, nothing whatever can
change temperament.

 

Y.M. You have instanced extreme temperaments.

 

O.M. Yes, the half-dozen others are modifications of the extremes. But the law is the
same. Where the temperament is two-thirds happy, or two-thirds unhappy, no political or
religious beliefs can change the proportions. The vast majority of temperaments are
pretty equally balanced; the intensities are absent, and this enables a nation to learn
to accommodate itself to its political and religious circumstances and like them, be
satisfied with them, at last prefer them. Nations do not THINK, they only FEEL. They get
their feelings at second hand through their temperaments, not their brains. A nation can
be brought-- by force of circumstances, not argument--to reconcile itself to ANY KIND OF
GOVERNMENT OR RELIGION THAT CAN BE DEVISED; in time it will fit itself to the required
conditions; later, it will prefer them and will fiercely fight for them. As instances,
you have all history: the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Russians,
the Germans, the French, the English, the Spaniards, the Americans, the South Americans,
the Japanese, the Chinese, the Hindus, the Turks--a thousand wild and tame religions,
every kind of government that can be thought of, from tiger to house-cat, each nation
KNOWING it has the only true religion and the only sane system of government, each
despising all the others, each an ass and not suspecting it, each proud of its fancied
supremacy, each perfectly sure it is the pet of God, each without undoubting confidence
summoning Him to take command in time of war, each surprised when He goes over to the
enemy, but by habit able to excuse it and resume compliments--in a word, the whole human
race content, always content, persistently content, indestructibly content, happy,
thankful, proud, NO MATTER WHAT ITS RELIGION IS,
NOR WHETHER ITS MASTER BE TIGER OR HOUSE-CAT. Am I stating facts? You know I am. Is the human race cheerful? You know it is. Considering what it can stand, and be happy, you do me too much honor when you think that _I_ can place before it a system of plain cold facts that can take the cheerfulness out of it. Nothing can do that. Everything has been tried. Without success. I beg you not to be troubled.

 

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