Outwitting Our Nerves eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 270 pages of information about Outwitting Our Nerves.

PART II:  “HOW THE WHEELS GO ROUND”

CHAPTER III

In which we find a goodly inheritance

THE STORY OF THE INSTINCTS

EACH IN HIS OWN TONGUE

    A fire mist and a planet,
    A crystal and a cell,
    A jelly-fish and a saurian,
    And caves where cavemen dwell;
    Then a sense of law and beauty,
    And a face turned from the clod;
    Some call it evolution
    And others call it God.[4]

If we begin at the beginning, we have to go back a long way to get our start, for the roots of our family tree reach back over millions of years.  “In the beginning—­God.”  These first words of the book of Genesis must be, in spirit at least, the first words of any discussion of life.  We know now, however, that when God made man, He did not complete His masterpiece at one sitting, but instead devised a plan by which the onward urge within and the environment without should act and interact until from countless adaptations a human being was made.

[Footnote 4:  William Herbert Carruth.]

As the late Dr. Putnam of Harvard University says, “We stand as the representative of a Creative Energy that expressed itself first in far simpler forms of life and finally in the form of human instincts."[5] And again:  “The choices and decisions of the organisms whose lives prepared the way through eons of time for ours, present themselves to us as instincts."[6]

[Footnote 5:  Putnam:  Human Motives, p. 32.]

[Footnote 6:  Putnam:  Human Motives, p. 18.]

INTRODUCING THE INSTINCTS

=Back of Our Dispositions.= What is it that makes the baby jump at a noise?  What energizes a man when you tell him he is a liar?  What makes a young girl blush when you look at her, or a youth begin to take pains with his necktie?  What makes men go to war or build tunnels or found hospitals or make love or save for a home?  What makes a woman slave for her children, or give her life for them if need be?  “Instinct” you say, and rightly.  Back of every one of these well-known human tendencies is a specific instinct or group of instincts.  The story of the life of man and the story of the mind of man must begin with the instincts.  Indeed, any intelligent approach to human life, whether it be that of the mother, the teacher, the preacher, the social worker or the neurologist, leads back inevitably to the instincts as the starting-point of understanding.  But what is instinct?

We are apt to be a bit hazy on that point, as we are on any fundamental thing with which we intimately live.  We reckon on these instinctive tendencies every hour of the day, but as we are not used to labeling them, it may help in the very beginning of our discussion to have a list before our eyes.  Here, then, is a list of the fundamental tendencies of the human race and the emotions which drive them to fulfilment.

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Outwitting Our Nerves from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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