Eight Notes on “Life” from Samuel Butler’s Note-Books

  1. The beginning of life is the beginning of an illusion to the effect that there is such a thing as free will and that there is such another thing as necessity – the recognition of the fact that there is an “I can” and an “I cannot,” an “I may” and an “I must.”
  2. Life is not so much a riddle to be read as a Gordian knot that will get cut sooner or later.
  3. Life is the distribution of an error – or errors.
  4. Life is a superstition.  But superstitions are not without their value.  The snail’s shell is a superstition, slugs have no shells and thrive just as well.  But a snail without a shell would not be a slug unless it had also the slug’s indifference to a shell.
  5. Life is one long process of getting tired.
  6. Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.
  7. Life is eight parts cards and two parts play, the unseen world is made manifest to us in the play.
  8. Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule.  Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases – though not often.

—From Samuel Butler’s Note-Books.

 

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