Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wisdom from Eve: Twain's Letters from the Earth

Words of wisdom from the Original First Lady, Eve, by way of Mark Twain, from Letters from the Earth.

 From "Extract of Eve's Autobiography"

But studying, learning, inquiring into the cause and nature and purpose of everything we came across, were passions with us, and this research filled our days with brilliant and absorbing interest. Adam was by constitution and proclivity a scientist; I may justly say I was the same, and we loved to call ourselves by that great name. Each was ambitious to beat the other in scientific discovery, and this incentive added a spur to our friendly rivalry, and effectively protected us against falling into idle and unprofitable ways and frivolous pleasure-seeking.

Our first memorable scientific discovery was the law that water and like fluids run downhill, not up. It was Adam that found this out. Days and days he conducted his experiments secretly, saying nothing to me about it; for he wanted to make perfectly sure before he spoke. I knew something of prime importance was disturbing his great intellect, for his repose was troubled and he thrashed about in his sleep a good deal. But at last he was sure, and then he told me. I could not believe it, it seemed so strange, so impossible. My astonishment was his triumph, his reward. He took me from rill to rill -- dozens of them -- saying always, "There -- you see it runs downhill -- in every case it runs downhill, never up. My theory was right; it is proven, it is established, nothing can controvert it." And it was a pure delight to see his exultation in this great discovery.

In the present day no child wonders to see the water run down and not up, but it was an amazing thing then, and as hard to believe as any fact I have ever encountered.

You see, that simple matter had been under my eyes from the day I was made, but I had never happened to notice it. It took me some time to accept it and adjust myself to it, and for a long time I could not see a running stream without voluntarily or involuntarily taking note of the dip of the surface, half expecting to see Adam's law violated; but at last I was convinced and remained so; and from that day forth I should have been startled and perplexed to see a waterfall going up the wrong way. Knowledge has to be acquired by hard work; none of it is flung at our heads gratis.

That law was Adam's first great contribution to science; and for more than two centuries it went by his name -- Adam's Law of Fluidic Precipitation. Anybody could get on the soft side of him by dropping a casual compliment or two about it in his hearing.

He was a good deal inflated -- I will not try to conceal it -- but not spoiled. Nothing ever spoiled him, he was so good and dear and right-hearted. He always put it by with a deprecating gesture, and said it was no great thing, some other scientist would have discovered it by and by; but all the same, if a visiting stranger had audience of him and was tactless enough to forget to mention it, it was noticeable that that stranger was not invited to call again. After a couple of centuries, the discovery of the law got into dispute, and was wrangled over by scientific bodies for as much as a century, the credit being finally given to a more recent person. It was a cruel blow. Adam was never the same man afterward. He carried that sorrow in his heart for six hundred years, and I have always believed that it shortened his life. Of course throughout his days he took precedence of kings and of all the race as First Man, and had the honors due to that great rank, but these distinctions could not compensate him for that lamented ravishment, for he was a true scientist and the First; and he confided to me, more than once, that if he could have kept the glory of Discoverer of the Law of Fluidic Precipitation he would have been content to pass as his own son and Second Man. I did what I could to comfort him. I said that as First Man his fame was secure; and that a time would come when the name of the pretended discoverer of the law that water runs downhill would fade and perish and be forgotten in the earth. And I believe that. I have never ceased to believe it. That day will surely come.

I scored the next great triumph for science myself: to wit, how the milk gets into the cow. Both of us had marveled over that mystery a long time. We had followed the cows around for years -- that is, in the daytime -- but had never caught them drinking a fluid of that color. And so, at last we said they undoubtedly procured it at night. Then we took turns and watched them by night. The result was the same -- the puzzle remained unsolved. These proceedings were of a sort to be expected in beginners, but one perceives, now, that they were unscientific. A time came when experience had taught us better methods. 

One night as I lay musing, and looking at the stars, a grand idea flashed through my head, and I saw my way! My first impulse was to wake Adam and tell him, but I resisted it and kept my secret. I slept no wink the rest of the night. The moment the first pale streak of dawn appeared I flitted stealthily away; and deep in the woods I chose "a small grassy spot and wattled it in, making a secure pen; then I enclosed a cow in it. I milked her dry, then left her there, a prisoner. There was nothing there to drink -- she must get milk by her secret alchemy, or stay dry.

All day I was in a fidget, and could not talk connectedly I was so preoccupied; but Adam was busy trying to invent a multiplication table, and did not notice. Toward sunset he had got as far as 6 times 9 are 27, and while he was drunk with the joy of his achievement and dead to my presence and all things else, I stole away to my cow. My hand shook so with excitement and with dread failure that for some moments I could not get a grip on a teat; then I succeeded, and the milk came! Two gallons. Two gallons, and nothing to make it out of. I knew at once the explanation: the milk was not taken in by the mouth, it was condensed from the atmosphere through the cow's hair. I ran and told Adam, and his happiness was as great as mine, and his pride in me inexpressible.

Presently he said, "Do you know, you have not made merely one weighty and far-reaching contribution to science, but two." And that was true. By a series of experiments we had long ago arrived at the conclusion that atmospheric air consisted of water in invisible suspension; also, that the components of water were hydrogen and oxygen, in the proportion of two parts of the former to one of the latter, and expressible by the symbol H2O. My discovery revealed the fact that there was still another ingredient -- milk. We enlarged the symbol to H2O,M.


Another discovery. One day I noticed that William McKinley was not looking well. He is the original first lion, and has been a pet of mine from the beginning. I examined him, to see what was the matter with him, and found that a cabbage which he had not chewed, had stuck in his throat. I was unable to pull it out, so I took the broomstick and rammed it home. This relieved him. In the course of my labors I had made him spread his jaws, so that I could look in, and I noticed that there was something  peculiar about his teeth. I now subjected the teeth to careful and scientific examination, and the result was a consuming surprise: the lion is not a vegetarian, he is carnivorous, a flesh-eater! Intended for one, anyway.

I ran to Adam and told him, but of course he scoffed, saying, "Where would he find flesh?"

I had to grant that I didn't know.

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