Thursday, July 11, 2013

From Mark Twain, Extract from Eve's Autobiography (Letters From the Earth):
Today, in a wood, we heard a Voice.
We hunted for it, but could not find it. Adam said he had heard it before, but had never seen it, though he had been quite close to it. So he was sure it was like the air, and could not be seen. I asked him to tell me all he knew about the Voice, but he knew very little. It was Lord of the Garden, he said, and had told him to dress the Garden and keep it; and it had said we must not eat of the fruit of a certain tree and that if we ate of it we should surely die. Our death would be certain. That was all he knew. I wanted to see the tree, so we had a pleasant long walk to where it stood alone in a secluded and lovely spot, and there we sat down and looked long at it with interest, and talked. Adam said it was the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
"Good and evil?"
"What is that?"
"What is what?"
"Why, those things. What is good?"
"I do not know. How should I know?"
"Well, then, what is evil?"
"I suppose it is the name of something, but I do not know what."
"But, Adam, you must have some idea of what it is."
"Why should I have some idea? I have never seen the thing, how am I to form any conception of it? What is your own notion of it?"
Of course I had none, and it was unreasonable of me to require him to have one.
There was no way for either of us to guess what it might be. It was a new word, like the other; we had not heard them before, and they meant nothing to us. My mind kept running on the matter, and presently I said, "Adam, there are those other new words -- die, and death. What do they mean?"
"I have no idea."
"Well, then, what do you think they mean?"
"My child, cannot you see that it is impossible for me to make even a plausible guess concerning a matter about which I am absolutely ignorant? A person can't think when he has no material to think with. Isn't that true?"
"Yes -- I know it; but how vexatious it is. Just because I can't know, I all the more want to know."
We sat silent a while turning the puzzle over in our minds: then all at once I saw how to find out, and was surprised that we had not thought of it in the beginning, it was so simple. I sprang up and said, "How stupid we are! Let us eat of it; we shall die, and then we shall know what it is, and not have any more bother about it."

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