Back to Methuselah eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 333 pages of information about Back to Methuselah.
Why cant you talk and walk and paint and behave decently?’ To that question Baby Raphael had no answer.  All he could have said was that this is how evolution or transformation happens.  The time may come when the same force that compressed the development of millions of years into nine months may pack many more millions into even a shorter space; so that Raphaels may be born painters as they are now born breathers and blood circulators.  But they will still begin as specks of protoplasm, and acquire the faculty of painting in their mother’s womb at quite a late stage of their embryonic life.  They must recapitulate the history of mankind in their own persons, however briefly they may condense it.

Nothing was so astonishing and significant in the discoveries of the embryologists, nor anything so absurdly little appreciated, as this recapitulation, as it is now called:  this power of hurrying up into months a process which was once so long and tedious that the mere contemplation of it is unendurable by men whose span of life is three-score-and-ten.  It widened human possibilities to the extent of enabling us to hope that the most prolonged and difficult operation of our minds may yet become instantaneous, or, as we call it, instinctive.  It also directed our attention to examples of this packing up of centuries into seconds which were staring us in the face in all directions.  As I write these lines the newspapers are occupied by the exploits of a child of eight, who has just defeated twenty adult chess players in twenty games played simultaneously, and has been able afterwards to reconstruct all the twenty games without any apparent effort of memory.  Most people, including myself, play chess (when they play it at all) from hand to mouth, and can hardly recall the last move but one, or foresee the next but two.  Also, when I have to make an arithmetical calculation, I have to do it step by step with pencil and paper, slowly, reluctantly, and with so little confidence in the result that I dare not act on it without ‘proving’ the sum by a further calculation involving more ciphering.  But there are men who can neither read, write, nor cipher, to whom the answer to such sums as I can do is instantly obvious without any conscious calculation at all; and the result is infallible.  Yet some of these natural arithmeticians have but a small vocabulary; are at a loss when they have to find words for any but the simplest everyday occasions; and cannot for the life of them describe mechanical operations which they perform daily in the course of their trade; whereas to me the whole vocabulary of English literature, from Shakespear to the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is so completely and instantaneously at my call that I have never had to consult even a thesaurus except once or twice when for some reason I wanted a third or fourth synonym.  Again, though I have tried and failed to draw recognizable portraits of persons I have seen every day for years, Mr Bernard

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Back to Methuselah from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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