This matter can not be amended: the race exposes itself to peril because it can do no otherwise. In all the world there is no city of refuge—no temple in which to take sanctuary, clinging to the horns of the altar—no “place apart” where, like hunted deer, we can hope to elude the baying pack of Nature’s malevolences. The dead-line is drawn at the gate of life: Man crosses it at birth. His advent is a challenge to the entire pack—earthquake, storm, fire, flood, drought, heat, cold, wild beasts, venomous reptiles, noxious insects, bacilli, spectacular plague and velvet-footed household disease—all are fierce and tireless in pursuit. Dodge, turn and double how he can, there’s no eluding them; soon or late some of them have him by the throat and his spirit returns to the God who gave it—and gave them.
We are told that this earth was made for our inhabiting. Our dearly beloved brethren in the faith, our spiritual guides, philosophers and friends of the pulpit, never tire of pointing out the goodness of God in giving us so excellent a place to live in and commending the admirable adaptation of all things to our needs.
What a fine world it is, to be sure—a darling little world, “so suited to the needs of man.” A globe of liquid fire, straining within a shell relatively no thicker than that of an egg—a shell constantly cracking and in momentary danger of going all to pieces! Three-fourths of this delectable field of human activity are covered with an element in which we can not breathe, and which swallows us by myriads:
With moldering bones the deep is white
From the frozen zones to the tropic bright.
Of the other one-fourth more than one-half is uninhabitable by reason of climate. On the remaining one-eighth we pass a comfortless and precarious existence in disputed occupancy with countless ministers of death and pain—pass it in fighting for it, tooth and nail, a hopeless battle in which we are foredoomed to defeat. Everywhere death, terror, lamentation and the laughter that is more terrible than tears—the fury and despair of a race hanging on to life by the tips of its fingers. And the prize for which we strive, “to have and to hold”—what is it? A thing that is neither enjoyed while had, or missed when lost. So worthless it is, so unsatisfying, so inadequate to purpose, so false to hope and at its best so brief, that for consolation and compensation we set up fantastic faiths of an aftertime in a better world from which no confirming whisper has ever reached us across the void. Heaven is a prophecy uttered by the lips of despair, but Hell is an inference from analogy.