I think it is wrong to EXPOSE a fact when harm can come of it.

O.M. Go on.

Y.M. Look at the matter as it stands now. Man has been taught that he is the supreme marvel of the Creation; he believes it; in all the ages he has never doubted it, whether he was a naked savage, or clothed in purple and fine linen, and civilized. This has made his heart buoyant, his life cheery. His pride in himself, his sincere admiration of himself, his joy in what he supposed were his own and unassisted achievements, and his exultation over the praise and applause which they evoked--these have exalted him, enthused him, ambitioned him to higher and higher flights; in a word, made his life worth the living. But by your scheme, all this is abolished; he is degraded to a machine, he is a nobody, his noble prides wither to mere vanities; let him strive as he may, he can never be any better than his humblest and stupidest neighbor; he would never be cheerful again, his life would not be worth the living.

O.M. You really think that?

Y.M. I certainly do.

O.M. Have you ever seen me uncheerful, unhappy.

Y.M. No.

O.M. Well, _I_ believe these things. Why have they not made me unhappy?

Y.M. Oh, well--temperament, of course! You never let THAT escape from your scheme.

O.M. That is correct. If a man is born with an unhappy temperament, nothing can make him happy; if he is born with a happy temperament, nothing can make him unhappy.

Y.M. What--not even a degrading and heart-chilling system of beliefs?

O.M. Beliefs? Mere beliefs? Mere convictions? They are powerless. They strive in vain against inborn temperament.

Y.M. I can't believe that, and I don't.

O.M. Now you are speaking hastily. It shows that you have not studiously examined the facts. Of all your intimates, which one is the happiest? Isn't it Burgess?

Y.M. Easily.

O.M. And which one is the unhappiest? Henry Adams?

Y.M. Without a question!

O.M. I know them well. They are extremes, abnormals; their temperaments are as opposite as the poles. Their life-histories are about alike--but look at the results! Their ages are about the same--about around fifty. Burgess had always been buoyant, hopeful, happy; Adams has always been cheerless, hopeless, despondent. As young fellows both tried country journalism--and failed. Burgess didn't seem to mind it; Adams couldn't smile, he could only mourn and groan over what had happened and torture himself with vain regrets for not having done so and so instead of so and so--THEN he would have succeeded. They tried the law-- and failed. Burgess remained happy--because he couldn't help it. Adams was wretched--because he couldn't help it. From that day to this, those two men have gone on trying things and failing: Burgess has come out happy and cheerful every time; Adams the reverse. And we do absolutely know that these men's inborn temperaments have remained unchanged through all the vicissitudes of their material affairs. Let us see how it is with their immaterials. Both have been zealous Democrats; both have been zealous Republicans; both have been zealous Mugwumps. Burgess has always found happiness and Adams unhappiness in these several political beliefs and in their migrations out of them. Both of these men have been Presbyterians, Universalists, Methodists, Catholics--then Presbyterians again, then Methodists again. Burgess has always found rest in these excursions, and Adams unrest. They are trying Christian Science, now, with the customary result, the inevitable result. No political or religious belief can make Burgess unhappy or the other man happy. I assure you it is purely a matter of temperament. Beliefs are ACQUIREMENTS, temperaments are BORN; beliefs are subject to change, nothing whatever can change temperament.

Y.M. You have instanced extreme temperaments.

O.M. Yes, the half-dozen others are modifications of the extremes. But the law is the same. Where the temperament is two-thirds happy, or two-thirds unhappy, no political or religious beliefs can change the proportions.

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 37

Mark Twain

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