Mimicry Of Life
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE mimicry of life is not so marvelous as the mystery of life. The crowd before the window in New York listening to the music-box which mimics the songs of birds, is attracted by the golden case and the feathered forms within so cleverly imitating the movements of life; and it gazes in rapt admiration at the poses and flutterings of the ingenious toys, marveling at the skill which can produce such prodigies, and speculating about the mechanism employed. But the homely sparrows, chirruping their common notes in the gutter behind the crowd, conceal a mystery far more fascinating and profound. No human being, however learned, ever yet discovered the source of their movements or of their songs. Life exists all about us, and in our own bodies, but we cannot find it. The keenest scalpel is not keen enough ; the most powerful microscope fails to discover what it is or where it has its seat. Life is beyond the highest art and the deepest science. " Dead machines survive " the earthly lives of their masters ; and a power-loom at Lowell, a watch at Waterbury, a pin-machine at Ansonia, or a phonograph at Orange, may seem instinct with intelligence ; but none of them posesses life, and no human ingenuity can impart to any of its creations that mighty and mysterious force.
The ignoble nobleman may practise the arts of politeness without being a gentleman ; the un-Christian may go through his religious observances without having any religion. In the show windows of the church there are some stuffed birds and monkeys who are wound up on springs to perform, who have not a particle of spiritual life in them ; and the people know that they are not real.