FOOD AND FEEDING
When a man and a bear meet together casually in an American forest, it makes a great deal of difference, to the two parties concerned at least, whether the bear eats the man or the man eats the bear. We haven’t the slightest difficulty in deciding afterwards which of the two, in each particular case, has been the eater, and which the eaten. Here, we say, is the grizzly that eat the man; or, here is the man that smoked and dined off the hams of the grizzly. Basing our opinion upon such familiar and well-known instances, we are apt to take it for granted far too readily that between eating and being eaten, between the active and the passive voice of the verb edo, there exists necessarily a profound and impassable native antithesis. To swallow an oyster is, in our own personal histories, so very different a thing from being swallowed by a shark that we can hardly realise at first the underlying fundamental identity of eating with mere coalescence. And yet, at the very outset of the art of feeding, when the nascent animal first began to indulge in this very essential animal practice, one may fairly say that no practical difference as yet existed between the creature that ate and the creature that was eaten. After the man and the bear had finished their little meal, if one may be frankly metaphorical, it was impossible to decide whether the remaining being was the man or the bear, or which of the two had swallowed the other. The dinner having been purely mutual, the resulting animal represented both the litigants equally; just as, in cannibal New Zealand, the chief who ate up his brother chief was held naturally to inherit the goods and chattels of the vanquished and absorbed rival, whom he had thus literally and physically incorporated.
A jelly-speck, floating about at his ease in a drop of stagnant water under the field of a microscope, collides accidentally with another jelly-speck who happens to be travelling in the opposite direction across the same miniature ocean. What thereupon occurs? One jelly-speck rolls itself gradually into the other, so that, instead of two, there is now one; and the united body proceeds to float away quite unconcernedly, without waiting to trouble itself for a second with the profound metaphysical question, which half of it is the original personality, and which half the devoured and digested. In these minute and very simple animals there is absolutely no division of labour between part and part; every bit of the jelly-like mass is alike head and foot and mouth and stomach. The jelly-speck has no permanent limbs, but it keeps putting forth vague arms and legs every now and then from one side or the other; and with these temporary and ever-dissolving members it crawls along merrily through its tiny drop of stagnant water. If two of the legs or arms happen to knock up casually against one another, they coalesce at