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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Lord, What is Man ?             13

My Life

i

I imagine that life can give nothing much better or much
worse than what I have myself experienced. I should say
I had proved pretty well the extremes of mental pleasure
and pain ; and so I believe each in his own way does, almost
every man.

ii

I have squandered my life as a schoolboy squanders a
tip. But then half, or more than half the fun a schoolboy
gets out of a tip consists in the mere fact of having something
to squander. Squandering is in itself delightful, and so I
found it with my life in my younger days. I do not squander
it now, but I am not sorry that I have squandered a good deal
of it. What a heap of rubbish there would have been if I had
not! Had I not better set about squandering what is left
of it ?

The Life we Live in Others

A man should spend his life or, rather, does spend his
life in being born. His life is his birth throes. But most
men mis-carry and never come to the true birth at all and
some live but a very short time in a very little world and none
are eternal. Still, the life we live beyond the grave is our
truest life, and our happiest, for we pass it in the profoundest
sleep as though we were children in our cradles. If we are
wronged it hurts us not; if we wrong others, we do not suffer
for it; and when we die, as even the Handels and Bellinis
and Shakespeares sooner or later do, we die easily, know
neither fear nor pain and live anew in the lives of those
who have been begotten of our work and who have for the
time come up in our room.

An immortal like Shakespeare knows nothing of his own
immortality about which we are so keenly conscious. As he
knows nothing of it when it is in its highest vitality, centuries,
it may be, after his apparent death, so it is best and happiest
if during his bodily life he should think little or nothing about
it and perhaps hardly suspect that he will live after his death
at all.