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William Johnson Dawson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 147 pages of information about The Quest of the Simple Life.
death seems not undesirable.  A country life gives one the pleasant sense of kinship with the earth.  It is no longer an offence to know oneself of the earth earthy.  I was so much engaged in the love and study of things whose life was brief that the thought of death became natural.  I saw constantly in flowers and birds, and domestic creatures, the little round of life completed and relinquished without regret.  I saw also how the aged peasant gathered up his feet and died, like a tired child falling asleep at the close of a long day.  Death is in reality no more terrible than birth; but it is only the natural man who can so conceive it.  He who lives in constant kinship with the earth will go to his rest on the earth’s bosom without repugnance.  I knew very well the place where I should be buried; it was beneath a clean turf kept sweet by mountain winds; and the place seemed desirable.  Having come back by degrees to a life of entire kinship with the earth, having shared the seasons and the storms, it seemed but the final seal set upon this kinship, that I should dissolve quietly into the elements of things, to find perhaps my resurrection in the eternally renewed life of Nature.

Neighbourship meant also for me kinship, with every kind of life around me, and some friendly association with my fellow-men.  The creatures we call dumb have a sure way of talking to us, if we will overcome their shyness and give them a chance.  Moreover their habits, their method of life, their thoughts, are in themselves profoundly interesting.  I seemed to have discovered a new universe when I first took to bee-culture.  The geometry of the heavens is not more astonishing than the geometry of the beehive, nor is the architecture of the finest city built by man more intricate and masterly.  Here, as in all things, we are deceived by bulk, counting a thing great merely because it is big; but if it come to deducing an Invisible Mind in the universe from the things that are visible, I would as soon base my argument on what goes on in a bee’s brain, as on the harmonies of law manifested in the solar system.  I believe we greatly err in underrating other forms of life than our own.  The Hindu, who acknowledges a mystic sacredness in all forms of life, comes nearer the truth.  Life for life, judged by proportion, plan, symmetry, delicacy of design and beauty of adjustment, man is a creature not a whit more wonderful than many forms of life which he crushes with a careless foot.  The creature we call dumb is not dumb to its mates, and it is very likely our human modes of communication appear as absurd to the dog or horse as theirs do to us.  We know what we think of the so-called dumb creatures; it might be a humbling surprise if we could know what the dumb creature thinks of us.  The satire would not be upon one side, be sure of it.

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