HOW COULD YOU DO THIS CRUEL THING? WE HAD DONE YOU NO HARM, BUT ONLY KINDNESS; WE MADE OUR HOUSE YOUR HOME, YOU WERE WELCOME TO ALL WE HAD, AND THIS IS OUR REWARD."

The heart of the missionary was filled with remorse for what he had done, and he said:

"IT WAS WRONG--I SEE IT NOW; BUT I WAS ONLY TRYING TO DO HIM GOOD. IN MY VIEW HE WAS IN ERROR; IT SEEMED MY DUTY TO TEACH HIM THE TRUTH."

Then the mother said:

"I HAD TAUGHT HIM, ALL HIS LITTLE LIFE, WHAT I BELIEVED TO BE THE TRUTH, AND IN HIS BELIEVING FAITH BOTH OF US WERE HAPPY. NOW HE IS DEAD--AND LOST; AND I AM MISERABLE. OUR FAITH CAME DOWN TO US THROUGH CENTURIES OF BELIEVING ANCESTORS; WHAT RIGHT HAD YOU, OR ANY ONE, TO DISTURB IT? WHERE WAS YOUR HONOR, WHERE WAS YOUR SHAME?"

The missionary's anguish of remorse and sense of treachery were as bitter and persecuting and unappeasable, now, as they had been in the former case. The story is finished. What is your comment?

Y.M. The man's conscience is a fool! It was morbid. It didn't know right from wrong.

O.M. I am not sorry to hear you say that. If you grant that ONE man's conscience doesn't know right from wrong, it is an admission that there are others like it. This single admission pulls down the whole doctrine of infallibility of judgment in consciences. Meantime there is one thing which I ask you to notice.

Y.M. What is that?

O.M. That in both cases the man's ACT gave him no spiritual discomfort, and that he was quite satisfied with it and got pleasure out of it. But afterward when it resulted in PAIN to HIM, he was sorry. Sorry it had inflicted pain upon the others, BUT FOR NO REASON UNDER THE SUN EXCEPT THAT THEIR PAIN GAVE HIM PAIN. Our consciences take NO notice of pain inflicted upon others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to US. In ALL cases without exception we are absolutely indifferent to another person's pain until his sufferings make us uncomfortable. Many an infidel would not have been troubled by that Christian mother's distress. Don't you believe that?

Y.M. Yes. You might almost say it of the AVERAGE infidel, I think.

O.M. And many a missionary, sternly fortified by his sense of duty, would not have been troubled by the pagan mother's distress--Jesuit missionaries in Canada in the early French times, for instance; see episodes quoted by Parkman.

Y.M. Well, let us adjourn. Where have we arrived?

O.M. At this. That we (mankind) have ticketed ourselves with a number of qualities to which we have given misleading names. Love, Hate, Charity, Compassion, Avarice, Benevolence, and so on. I mean we attach misleading MEANINGS to the names. They are all forms of self-contentment, self-gratification, but the names so disguise them that they distract our attention from the fact. Also we have smuggled a word into the dictionary which ought not to be there at all--Self-Sacrifice. It describes a thing which does not exist. But worst of all, we ignore and never mention the Sole Impulse which dictates and compels a man's every act: the imperious necessity of securing his own approval, in every emergency and at all costs. To it we owe all that we are. It is our breath, our heart, our blood. It is our only spur, our whip, our goad, our only impelling power; we have no other. Without it we should be mere inert images, corpses; no one would do anything, there would be no progress, the world would stand still. We ought to stand reverently uncovered when the name of that stupendous power is uttered.

Y.M. I am not convinced.

O.M. You will be when you think.

III

Instances in Point

Old Man. Have you given thought to the Gospel of Self- Approval since we talked?

Young Man. I have.

O.M. It was I that moved you to it. That is to say an OUTSIDE INFLUENCE moved you to it--not one that originated in your head. Will you try to keep that in mind and not forget it?

Y.M. Yes. Why?

O.M. Because by and by in one of our talks, I wish to further impress upon you that neither you, nor I, nor any man ever originates a thought in his own head.

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 11

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