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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

The Life of the World to Come   363

Shakespeare and Homer may live long, but they will die some
day, that is to say, they will become unknown as direct and
efficient causes. Even so God himself dies, for to die is to
change and to change is to die to what has gone before. If the
units change the total must do so also.

As no one can say which egg or seed shall come to visible
life and in its turn leave issue, so no one can say which of
the millions of now visible lives shall enter into the after-
life on death, and which have but so little life as practically
not to count. For most seeds end as seeds or as food for some
alien being, and so with lives, by far the greater number are
sterile, except in so far as they can be devoured as the food
of some stronger life. The Handels and Shakespeares are the
few seeds that grow—and even these die.

And the same uncertainty attaches to posthumous life as
to pre-lethal. As no one can say how long another shall live,
so no one can say how long or how short a time a reputation
shall live. The most unpromising weakly-looking creatures
sometimes live to ninety while strong rabust men are carried
off in their prime. And no one can say what a man shall enter
into life for having done. Roughly, there is a sort of moral
government whereby those who have done the best work live
most enduringly, but it is subject to such exceptions that no
one can say whether or no there shall not be an exception in
his own case either in his favour or against him.

In this uncertainty a ypung writer had better act as though
he had a reasonable chance of living, not perhaps very long,
but still some little while after his death. Let him leave
his notes fairly full and fairly tidy in all respects, without
spending too much time about them. If they are wanted,
there they are; if not wanted, there is no harm done. He
might as well leave them as anything else. But let him write
them in copying ink and have the copies kept in different
places.

The Vates Sacer

Just as the kingdom of heaven cometh not by observation,
so neither do one's own ideas, nor the good things one hears
other people say; they fasten on us when we least want or
expect them. It is enough if the kingdom of heaven be
observed when it does come.