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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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Mind and Matter               85

I should have added :—So we think we are composed of the
same cells from year to year, whereas in truth the cells are a
succession of generations. The most continuous, homo-
geneous things we know are only like a lot of cow-bells on an
alpine pasture.

Nerves and Postmen

A letter, so long as it is connected with one set of nerves,
is one thing ; loose it from connection with those nerves—
open your fingers and drop it in the opening of a pillar box—
and it becomes part and parcel of another nervous system.
Letters in transitu contain all manner of varied stimuli and
shocks, yet to the postman, who is the nerve that conveys
them, they are all alike, except as regards mere size and weight.
I should think, therefore, that our nerves and ganglia really
see no difference in the stimuli that they convey.

And yet the postman does see some difference : he knows
a business letter from a valentine at a glance and practice
teaches him to know much else which escapes ourselves.
Who, then, shall say what the nerves and ganglia know and
what they do not know ? True, to us, as we think of a piece
of brain inside our own heads, it seems as absurd to consider
that it knows anything at all as it seems to consider that a
hen's egg knows anything; but then if the brain could see us,
perhaps the brain might say it was absurd to suppose that that
thing could know this or that. Besides what is the self of
which we say that we are self-conscious ? No one can say
what it is that we are conscious of. This is one of the things
which lie altogether outside the sphere of words.

The postman can open a letter if he likes and know all
about the message he is conveying, but, if he does this, he is
diseased qua postman. So, maybe, a nerve might open a
stimulus or a shock on the way sometimes, but it would not
be a good nerve.

Night-Shirts and Babies

On Hindhead, last Easter, we saw a family wash hung out
to dry. There were papa's two great night-shirts and mamma's
two lesser night-gowns and then the children's smaller articles
of clothing and mamma's drawers and the girls' drawers, all
full swollen with a strong north-east wind. But mamma's