Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

62              Memory and Design

principle, which underlies all development, that enough is a
little more than what one has. It is the business of memory
and heredity to conserve and to transmit from one generation
to another that which has been furnished by design, or by
accident designedly turned to account.

It is therefore not right to say, as some have supposed me
to mean, that we can do nothing which we do not remember
to have done before. We can do nothing very difficult or
complicated which we have not done before, unless as by a
tour de force, once in a way, under exceptionally favourable
circumstances, but our whole conscious life is the perform-
ance of acts either imperfectly remembered or not remem-
bered at all. There are rain-drops of new experiences in
every life which are not within the hold of our memory or
past experience, and, as each one of these rain-drops came
originally from something outside, the whole river of our life
,has in its inception nothing to do with memory, though it is
only through memory that the rain-drops of new experience
can ever unite to form a full flowing river of variously
organised life and intelligence.

Memory and Mistakes

Memory vanishes with extremes of resemblance or differ-
ence. Things which put us in mind of others must be neither
too like nor too unlike them. It is our sense that a position
is not quite the same which makes us find it so nearly the
same. We remember by the aid of differences as much as by
that of samenesses. If there could be no difference there
would be no memory, for the two positions would become
absolutely one and the same, and the universe would repeat
itself for ever and ever as between these two points.

When ninety-nine hundredths of one set of phenomena
are presented while the hundredth is withdrawn without
apparent cause, so that we can no longer do something which
according to our past experience we ought to find no difficulty
in doing, then we may guess what a bee must feel as it goes
flying up and down a window-pane. Then we have doubts
thrown upon the fundamental axiom of life, i.e. that like
antecedents will be followed by like consequents. On this
we go mad and die in a short time.