April 15, 2004

Twain didn't have trackback, either.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at April 15, 2004 12:15 PM

My post yesterday got me thinking about statements of the form "X is a gift from god" where X is actually some human achievement. In particular I was reminded of Mark Twain's treatment of this in Letters from the Earth. What he wrote was even more appropriate than I remembered. It's a little humbling to see that yesterday's blog post was a poor imitation of something written 95 years ago:

If science exterminates a disease which has been working for God, it is God that gets the credit, and all the pulpits break into grateful advertising-raptures and call attention to how good he is! Yes, he has done it. Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it. That is nothing; the pulpit says he was thinking about it all the time. When exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age-long tyranny and set a nation free, the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God's work, and invite the people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks to him for it. And the pulpit says with admiring emotion, "Let tyrants understand that the Eye that never sleeps is upon them; and let them remember that the Lord our God will not always be patient, but will loose the whirlwinds of his wrath upon them in his appointed day."

They forget to mention that he is the slowest mover in the universe; that his Eye that never sleeps, might as well, since it takes it a century to see what any other eye would see in a week; that in all history there is not an instance where he thought of a noble deed first, but always thought of it just a little after somebody else had thought of it and done it. He arrives then, and annexes the dividend.

Letters from the Earth should be taught in high school instead of Huck Finn. Kids might actually learn something.


That Twain excerpt is priceless and beggars us all as writers and thinkers.

Posted by: Dad | April 16, 2004 8:29 AM

Here here!

(For a [still] highly relevant critique of US politics, I heartily recommend Twain's The Gilded Age, which is also extremely funny.)

Posted by: Mason Porter | April 20, 2004 5:43 PM
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