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To gain a clearer view of this strange state of mind, let us watch theconduct of an individual. An important but typical incident occurred on thenorth coast of Baffin Island, now a great timber area dotted with residentialpylons. The final preparations were being made for the great New Year Flight,in which the island intended to dazzle the rest of the archipelago. In everybuilding the aerial landings thronged with planes and busy fliers. One of theseplanes was being given its finishing touches by a mother, while her boywatched, or lent a hand. Like many others, that afternoon she was in anoverwrought state. Food had long been unwholesome and scanty. The centralheating had been cruelly diminished, and the upper stories of the pylon werearctic. The lad had made matters worse by ragging her with innocentlyblasphemous suggestions, with which at heart she could not but sympathise. Whybother about the ceremony? Why not use their ration of power to go shopping inthe South? Sure Gordelpus could not want his people to waste power in air showswhen they were starving and freezing. She would never want him to starve, justto show he loved her. Gordelpus must be a beast if he liked that sort of thing.And anyhow it was dangerous to do flying-stunts when she was all empty andwobbly. In vain she had silenced him with the correct answers, for she herselfwas not convinced by them. Her hands blundered, her vision was obscured bytears. A spanner slipped, and she barked her knuckles.
It may seem strange that under these circumstances any kind of civilizationcould be achieved by the race, that any generation should ever have been ableto do more than learn the tricks of its elders. Yet in fact, though progresswas never swift, it was steady. For though these beings lacked much of thevigour of youth, they were compensated somewhat by escaping much of youth'sfevers and distractions. The First Men, in fact, were now a race whose wildoats had been sown; and though their youthful escapades had somewhat crippledthem, they had now the advantage of sobriety and singleness of purpose. Thoughdoomed by lassitude, and a certain fear of extravagance, to fall short of thehighest achievements of their predecessors, they avoided much of the wastefulincoherence and mental conflict which had tortured the earlier civilization atits height, though not in its decline. Moreover, because their animal naturewas somewhat subdued, the Patagonians were more capable of dispassionatecognition, and more inclined toward intellectualism. They were a people in whomrational behaviour was less often subverted by passion, though more liable tofail through mere indolence or faint-heartedness. Though they found detachmentrelatively easy, theirs was the detachment of mere lassitude, not the leap fromthe prison of life's cravings into a more spacious world.
The first few centuries after the foundation of the Martian colony had beenspent in ceaseless war. But at last, with terribly reduced resources, theSecond Men had reconciled themselves to the fact that they must live in thesame world with their mysterious enemy. Moreover, constant observation of theMartians began to restore somewhat man's shattered self-confidence. For duringthe fifty thousand years before the Martian colony was founded his opinion ofhimself had been undermined. He had formerly been used to regarding himself asthe sun's ablest child. Then suddenly a stupendous new phenomenon had defeatedhis intelligence. Slowly he had learned that he was at grips with a determinedand versatile rival, and that this rival hailed from a despised planet. Slowlyhe had been forced to suspect that he himself was outclassed, outshone, by arace whose very physique was incomprehensible to man. But after the Martianshad established a permanent colony, human scientists began to discover the realphysiological nature of the Martian organism, and were comforted to find thatit did not make nonsense of human science. Man also learned that the Martians,though very able in certain spheres, were not really of a high mental type.These discoveries restored human self-confidence. Man settled down to make thebest of the situation. Impassable barriers of high-power electric current weredevised to keep the Martians out of human territory, and men began patiently torebuild their ruined home as best they could. At first there was little respitefrom the crusading zeal of the Martians, but in the second millennium thisbegan to abate, and the two races left one another alone, save for occasionalrevivals of Martian fervour. Human civilization was at last reconstructed andconsolidated, though upon a modest scale. Once more, though interrupted now andagain by decades of agony, human beings lived in peace and relative prosperity.Life was somewhat harder than formerly, and the physique of the race wasdefinitely less reliable than of old; but men and women still enjoyedconditions which most nations of the earlier species would have envied. The ageof ceaseless personal sacrifice in service of the stricken community had endedat last. Once more a wonderful diversity of untrammelled personalities was putforth. Once more the minds of men and women were devoted without hindrance tothe joy of skilled work, and all the subtleties of personal intercourse. Oncemore the passionate interest in one's fellows, which had for so long beenhushed under the all-dominating public calamity, refreshed and enlarged themind. Once more there was music, sweet and backward-hearkening towards a goldenpast. Once more a wealth of literature, and of the visual arts. Once moreintellectual exploration into the nature of the physical world and thepotentiality of mind. And once more the religious experience, which had for solong been coarsened and obscured by all the violent distractions and inevitableself-deceptions of war, seemed to be refining itself under the influence ofreawakened culture.
Such, in brief, was the physical and mental nature of the third humanspecies. In spite of innumerable distractions, the spirit of the Third Men kepton returning to follow up the thread of biological interest through a thousandvariegated cultures. Again and again folk after folk would clamber out ofsavagery and barbarism into relative enlightenment; and mostly, though notalways, the main theme of this enlightenment was some special mood either ofbiological creativeness or of sadism, or of both. To a man born into such asociety, no dominant characteristic would be apparent. He would be impressedrather by the many-sidedness of human activities in his time. He would note awealth of personal intercourse, of social organization and industrialinvention, of art and speculation, all set in that universal matrix, theprivate struggle to preserve or express the self. Yet the historian may oftensee in a society, over and above this multifarious proliferation, some onecontrolling theme.
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"A stranger arrived from a far and foreign country. His was a mindpeculiarly humble, tremblingly alive to its own deficiencies. Yet,endowed with this mistrust, he sighed for information, and his soulthirsted in the pursuit of knowledge. Thus constituted, he sought thecity he had long dreamingly looked up to as the site of truth--Scotia'scapital, the modern Athens. In endeavouring to explore the mazes ofliterature, he by no means expected to discover novel paths, but soughtto traverse beauteous ones; feeling he could rest content, could he meetwith but one flower, which some bolder and more experienced adventurermight have allowed to escape him. He arrived, and cast around an anxiouseye. He found himself involved in an apparent chaos--the whirl ofdistraction--imbedded amidst a ceaseless turmoil of would-be knowingstudents, endeavouring to catch the aroma of the pharmacopaeia, or diveto the deep recesses of Scotch law. He sought and cultivated thefriendship of the literati; and anticipated a perpetual feast of soul,from a banquet to which one of the most distinguished members of alearned body had invited him. He went with his mind braced up for thesubtleties of argument--with hopes excited, heart elate. He deemed thatthe authenticity of Champolion's hieroglyphics might now be permanentlyestablished, or a doubt thrown on them which would for ever extinguishcuriosity. He heard a doubt raised as to the probability of Dr. Knox'sconnection with Burke's murders! Disappointed and annoyed, he returnedto his hotel, determined to seek other means of improvement; and tocarefully observe the manners, customs, and habits of the beings he wasamong. He enquired first as to their habits, and was presented withscones, kippered salmon, and a gallon of Glenlivet; as to their mannersand ancient costume, and was pointed out a short fat man, the head ofhis clan, who promenaded the streets without trousers. Neither did hefind the delineation of their customs more satisfactory. He was madenearly tipsy at a funeral--was shown how to carve haggis--and a fit ofbile was the consequence, of his too plentifully partaking of asuperabundantly rich currant bun. He mused over these defeats of hisobject, and, unwilling to relinquish his hitherto fruitlesssearch,--reluctant to despair,--he bent his steps to that city, whereutility preponderates over ornament; that city which so early encouragedthat most glorious of inventions, by the aid of which he hoped, that thediminutive barks of his countrymen might yet be propelled, thussuperseding the ponderous paddle of teak, He here expected to beinvolved in an intricate labyrinth of mechanical inventions,--in astormy discussion on the comparative merits of rival machinery,--to beimmersed in speculative but gigantic theories. He was elected anhonorary member of a news-room; had his coat whitened with cotton; andwas obliged to confess that he knew of no beverage that could equaltheir superb cold punch. Our philosopher now gave himself up to despair;but before returning to his own warm clime, he sought to discover thereason of his finding the flesh creep, where he had deemed the spiritwould soar. He at length came to the conclusion that we are all slavesto the world and to circumstances; and as, with his peculiar belief, hecould look on our sacred volume with the eye of a philosopher, feltimpressed with the conviction that the history of Babel's tower is butan allegory, which says to the pride of man,