Monday, May 29, 2017

Many leading humanitarians have an objection to human beings

From On Keeping a Dog by G.K. Chesterton.
Here, however, I only want to maintain that the real experience of things is often much better than our poetic anticipation of them; that peaks are often higher than they look in pictures and truths more terribly true than they appear in copy-books. Take, for example. the innovation which I of late introduced into my domestic life; he is a four-legged innovation in the shape of an Aberdeen terrier. I have always imagined myself to be a lover of all animals, because I have never met any animal that I definitely disliked. Most people draw the line somewhere. Lord Roberts dislikes cats; the best woman I know objects to spiders; a Theoeophist I know protects, but detests, mice; and many leading humanitarians have an objection to human beings.


But there is something deeper in the matter than all that, only the hour is late, and both the dog and I are too drowsy to interpret it. He lies in front of me curled up before the fire, as so many dogs must have lain before so many fires. I sit on one side of that hearth, as so many men must have sat by so many hearths. Somehow this creature has completed my manhood; somehow, I cannot explain why, a man ought to have a dog. A man ought to have six legs; those other four legs are part of him. Our alliance is older than any of the passing and priggish explanations that are offered of either of us; before evolution was, we were. You can find it written in a book that I am a mere survival of a squabble of anthropoid apes; and perhaps I am. I am sure I have no objection. But my dog knows I am a man, and you will not find the meaning of that word written in any book as clearly as it is written in his soul.

It may be written in a book that my dog is canine; and from this it may be deduced that he must hunt with a pack, since all canines hunt with a pack. Hence it may be argued (in the book) that if I have one Aberdeen terrier I ought to have twenty-five Aberdeen terriers. But my dog knows that I do not ask him to hunt with a pack; he knows that I do not care a curse whether he is canine or not so long as he is my dog. That is the real secret of the matter which the superficial evolutionists cannot be got to see. If traceable history be the test, civilization is much older than the savagery of evolution. The civilized dog is older than the wild dog of science. The civilized man is older than the primitive man of science. We feel it in our bones that we are the antiquities, and that the visions of biology are the fancies and the fads. The books do not matter; the night is closing in, and it is too dark to read books. Faintly against the fading firelight can be traced the prehistoric outlines of the man and the dog.

No comments:

Post a Comment