The human being always looks down when he is examining another person's standard; he never find one that he has to examine by looking up.

The Man-Machine Again

Young Man. You really think man is a mere machine?

Old Man. I do.

Y.M. And that his mind works automatically and is independent of his control--carries on thought on its own hook?

O.M. Yes. It is diligently at work, unceasingly at work, during every waking moment. Have you never tossed about all night, imploring, beseeching, commanding your mind to stop work and let you go to sleep?--you who perhaps imagine that your mind is your servant and must obey your orders, think what you tell it to think, and stop when you tell it to stop. When it chooses to work, there is no way to keep it still for an instant. The brightest man would not be able to supply it with subjects if he had to hunt them up. If it needed the man's help it would wait for him to give it work when he wakes in the morning.

Y.M. Maybe it does.

O.M. No, it begins right away, before the man gets wide enough awake to give it a suggestion. He may go to sleep saying, "The moment I wake I will think upon such and such a subject," but he will fail. His mind will be too quick for him; by the time he has become nearly enough awake to be half conscious, he will find that it is already at work upon another subject. Make the experiment and see.

Y.M. At any rate, he can make it stick to a subject if he wants to.

O.M. Not if it find another that suits it better. As a rule it will listen to neither a dull speaker nor a bright one. It refuses all persuasion. The dull speaker wearies it and sends it far away in idle dreams; the bright speaker throws out stimulating ideas which it goes chasing after and is at once unconscious of him and his talk. You cannot keep your mind from wandering, if it wants to; it is master, not you.

After an Interval of Days

O.M. Now, dreams--but we will examine that later. Meantime, did you try commanding your mind to wait for orders from you, and not do any thinking on its own hook?

Y.M. Yes, I commanded it to stand ready to take orders when I should wake in the morning.

O.M. Did it obey?

Y.M. No. It went to thinking of something of its own initiation, without waiting for me. Also--as you suggested--at night I appointed a theme for it to begin on in the morning, and commanded it to begin on that one and no other.

O.M. Did it obey?

Y.M. No.

O.M. How many times did you try the experiment?

Y.M. Ten.

O.M. How many successes did you score?

Y.M. Not one.

O.M. It is as I have said: the mind is independent of the man. He has no control over it; it does as it pleases. It will take up a subject in spite of him; it will stick to it in spite of him; it will throw it aside in spite of him. It is entirely independent of him.

Y.M. Go on. Illustrate.

O.M. Do you know chess?

Y.M. I learned it a week ago.

O.M. Did your mind go on playing the game all night that first night?

Y.M. Don't mention it!

O.M. It was eagerly, unsatisfiably interested; it rioted in the combinations; you implored it to drop the game and let you get some sleep?

Y.M. Yes. It wouldn't listen; it played right along. It wore me out and I got up haggard and wretched in the morning.

O.M. At some time or other you have been captivated by a ridiculous rhyme-jingle?

Y.M. Indeed, yes!

"I saw Esau kissing Kate, And she saw I saw Esau; I saw Esau, he saw Kate, And she saw--"

And so on. My mind went mad with joy over it. It repeated it all day and all night for a week in spite of all I could do to stop it, and it seemed to me that I must surely go crazy.

O.M. And the new popular song?

Y.M. Oh yes! "In the Swee-eet By and By"; etc. Yes, the new popular song with the taking melody sings through one's head day and night, asleep and awake, till one is a wreck. There is no getting the mind to let it alone.

O.M. Yes, asleep as well as aw

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 23

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