Thursday, December 12, 2019

What are they for?

In Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, God gathers the archangels and announces that He has made animals. Satan—who else?—asks, “What are they for?” . . .  God answers: “They are an experiment in Morals and Conduct. Observe them, and be instructed.” So Satan goes to Earth and soon concludes that “the people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane.”

-Verlyn Klinkenborg


G. Verloren said...

I haven't read Letters from the Earth, but the quote seems out of character for Twain from having read his other works. He typically portrays animals as being far better than humans, for whatever immoral acts they commit are almost always the product of their natures and the harsh realities of survival in the wild, whereas humans have a broad capacity to reason and yet either ignore it, or abuse it justify monstrous acts.

Perhaps it is out character for Twain - from what I've read, it seems Letters from the Earth was written in the deep depressive period near the end of life after he lost his wife and daughter. I know his outlook did improve a few years later, by the time he started dictating his autobiography, which I recommend.

That said, I read the comment much more as a criticism of Christian thinking than as any true criticism of animals themselves.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

"Nature itself is insane", remarkable words. As the world, or the planet, goes, that strikes me as deeply true - including in Nature everything, humans and animals, stones and water, clouds and winds. Insane.