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- Time and Change - 1/34 -


Produced by Charles Aldarondo

TIME AND CHANGE

BY

JOHN BURROUGHS

BOSTON AND NEW YORK

1912

PREFACE

I suspect that in this volume my reader will feel that I have given him a stone when he asked for bread, and his feeling in this respect will need no apology. I fear there is more of the matter of hard science and of scientific speculation in this collection than of spiritual and aesthetic nutriment; but I do hope the volume is not entirely destitute of the latter. If I have not in some degree succeeded in transmuting my rocks into a kind of wholesome literary bread, or, to vary the figure, in turning them into a soil in which some green thing or flower of human interest and emotion may take root and grow, then, indeed, have I come short of the end I had in view.

I am well aware that my own interest in geology far outruns my knowledge, but if I can in some degree kindle that interest in my reader, I shall be putting him on the road to a fuller knowledge than I possess. As with other phases of nature, I have probably loved the rocks more than I have studied them. In my youth I delighted in lingering about and beneath the ledges of my native hills, partly in the spirit of adventure and a boy's love of the wild, and partly with an eye to their curious forms, and the evidences of immense time that looked out from their gray and crumbling fronts. I was in the presence of Geologic Time, and was impressed by the scarred and lichen-coated veteran without knowing who or what he was. But he put a spell upon me that has deepened as the years have passed, and now my boyhood ledges are more interesting to me than ever.

If one gains an interest in the history of the earth, he is quite sure to gain an interest in the history of the life on the earth. If the former illustrates the theory of development, so must the latter. The geologist is pretty sure to be an evolutionist. As science turns over the leaves of the great rocky volume, it sees the imprint of animals and plants upon them and it traces their changes and the appearance of new species from age to age. The biologic tree has grown and developed as the geologic soil in which it is rooted has deepened and ripened. I am sure I was an evolutionist in the abstract, or by the quality and complexion of my mind, before I read Darwin, but to become an evolutionist in the concrete, and accept the doctrine of the animal origin of man, has not for me been an easy matter.

The essays on the subject in this volume are the outcome of the stages of brooding and thinking which I have gone through in accepting this doctrine. I am aware that there is much repetition in them, but maybe on that very account they will help my reader to go along with me over the long road we have to travel to reach this conclusion.

July, 1912.

CONTENTS

I. THE LONG ROAD

II. THE DIVINE ABYSS

III. THE SPELL OF THE YOSEMITE

IV. THROUGH THE EYES OF THE GEOLOGIST

V. HOLIDAYS IN HAWAII

VI. THE OLD ICE FLOOD

VII. THE FRIENDLY SOIL

VIII. PRIMAL ENERGIES

IX. SCIENTIFIC FAITH

X. "THE WORM STRIVING TO BE MAN"

XI. THE PHANTOMS BEHIND US

XII. THE HAZARDS OF THE PAST

XIII. THE GOSPEL OF NATURE

TIME AND CHANGE

I

THE LONG ROAD

I

The long road I have in mind is the long road of evolution,--the road you and I have traveled in the guise of humbler organisms, from the first unicellular life in the old Cambrian seas to the complex and highly specialized creature that rules supreme in the animal kingdom to-day. Surely a long journey, stretching through immeasurable epochs of geologic time, and attended by vicissitudes of which we can form but feeble conceptions.

The majority of readers, I fancy, are not yet ready to admit that they, or any of their forebears, have ever made such a journey. We have all long been taught that our race was started upon its career only a few thousand years ago, started, not amid the warrings of savage elemental nature, but in a pleasant garden with everything needed close at hand. This belief has faded a good deal in our time, especially among thoughtful persons; but in a modified form, as the special creation theory, it held sway in the minds of the older naturalists like Agassiz and Dawson, long after Darwin had launched his revolutionary doctrine of our animal origin, putting man in the same zoological scheme as the lower orders.

We are slow to adjust our minds to the revelations of science, they have been so long adjusted to a revelation, so-called, of an entirely different character. It gives them a wrench more or less violent when we try to make them at home and at their ease amid these new and startling disclosures. To many good people evolution seems an ungodly doctrine, like setting up a remorseless logic in the place of an omnipresent Creator. But there is no help for it. Science has fairly turned us out of our comfortable little anthropomorphic notion of things into the great out-of-doors of the universe. We must and will get used to the chill, yea, to the cosmic chill, if need be. Our religious instincts will be all the hardier for it.

When we accepted Newton's discovery of the force called gravitation, we virtually surrendered ourselves to the enemy, and started upon a road, the road of natural causation, that traverses the whole system of created things. We cannot turn back; we may lie down by the roadside and dream our old dreams, but our children and their children will press on, and will be exhilarated by the journey.

It is at first sight an unpalatable truth that evolution confronts us with, and it requires courage calmly to face it. But it is in perfect keeping with the whole career of physical science, which is forever directing our attention to common near-at-hand facts for the key to remote and mysterious occurrences.

It seems to me that evolution adds greatly to the wonder of life, because it takes it out of the realm of the arbitrary, the exceptional, and links it to the sequence of natural causation. That man should have been brought into existence by the fiat of an omnipotent power is less an occasion for wonder than that he should have worked his way up from the lower non-human forms. That the manward impulse should never have been lost in all the appalling vicissitudes of geologic time, that it should have pushed steadily on, through mollusk and fish and amphibian and reptile, through swimming and creeping and climbing things, and that the forms that conveyed it should have escaped the devouring monsters of the earth, sea, and air till it came to its full estate in a human being, is the wonder of wonders.

In like manner, evolution raises immensely the value of the biological processes that are everywhere operative about us, by showing us that these processes are the channels through which the creative energy has worked, and is still working. Not in the far-off or in the exceptional does it seek the key to man's origin, but in the sleepless activity of the creative force, which has been pushing


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