It makes me wild and murderous every time I think of it.

O.M. Good tests, both; very good tests. Did you try my other suggestion?

Y.M. The one which was to prove to me that if I would leave my mind to its own devices it would find things to think about without any of my help, and thus convince me that it was a machine, an automatic machine, set in motion by exterior influences, and as independent of me as it could be if it were in some one else's skull. Is that the one?

O.M. Yes.

Y.M. I tried it. I was shaving. I had slept well, and my mind was very lively, even gay and frisky. It was reveling in a fantastic and joyful episode of my remote boyhood which had suddenly flashed up in my memory--moved to this by the spectacle of a yellow cat picking its way carefully along the top of the garden wall. The color of this cat brought the bygone cat before me, and I saw her walking along the side-step of the pulpit; saw her walk on to a large sheet of sticky fly-paper and get all her feet involved; saw her struggle and fall down, helpless and dissatisfied, more and more urgent, more and more unreconciled, more and more mutely profane; saw the silent congregation quivering like jelly, and the tears running down their faces. I saw it all. The sight of the tears whisked my mind to a far distant and a sadder scene--in Terra del Fuego--and with Darwin's eyes I saw a naked great savage hurl his little boy against the rocks for a trifling fault; saw the poor mother gather up her dying child and hug it to her breast and weep, uttering no word. Did my mind stop to mourn with that nude black sister of mine? No--it was far away from that scene in an instant, and was busying itself with an ever-recurring and disagreeable dream of mine. In this dream I always find myself, stripped to my shirt, cringing and dodging about in the midst of a great drawing-room throng of finely dressed ladies and gentlemen, and wondering how I got there. And so on and so on, picture after picture, incident after incident, a drifting panorama of ever-changing, ever-dissolving views manufactured by my mind without any help from me--why, it would take me two hours to merely name the multitude of things my mind tallied off and photographed in fifteen minutes, let alone describe them to you.

O.M. A man's mind, left free, has no use for his help. But there is one way whereby he can get its help when he desires it.

Y.M. What is that way?

O.M. When your mind is racing along from subject to subject and strikes an inspiring one, open your mouth and begin talking upon that matter--or--take your pen and use that. It will interest your mind and concentrate it, and it will pursue the subject with satisfaction. It will take full charge, and furnish the words itself.

Y.M. But don't I tell it what to say?

O.M. There are certainly occasions when you haven't time. The words leap out before you know what is coming.

Y.M. For instance?

O.M. Well, take a "flash of wit"--repartee. Flash is the right word. It is out instantly. There is no time to arrange the words. There is no thinking, no reflecting. Where there is a wit-mechanism it is automatic in its action and needs no help. Where the whit-mechanism is lacking, no amount of study and reflection can manufacture the product.

Y.M. You really think a man originates nothing, creates nothing.

The Thinking-Process

O.M. I do. Men perceive, and their brain-machines automatically combine the things perceived. That is all.

Y.M. The steam-engine?

O.M. It takes fifty men a hundred years to invent it. One meaning of invent is discover. I use the word in that sense. Little by little they discover and apply the multitude of details that go to make the perfect engine. Watt noticed that confined steam was strong enough to lift the lid of the teapot. He didn't create the idea, he merely discovered the fact; the cat had noticed it a hundred times. From the teapot he evolved the cylinder--from the displaced lid he evolved the piston-rod.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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