A Mark Twain You May Not Know
Most of my few and cherished readers would bristle at the notion of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn no longer being available in a school library. I am sure Samuel Clemens would not like it either and he knew about publishing controversial things. There were important essays he wrote that were not widely published in his day including his essay Thoughts on God.
The essay was published in 1972 as part of a collection titled Fables of Man. Twain uses the essay to challenge some of conventional notions about God. It is really a polemic, and the writing is clear and impactful with amazing word choice. Twain uses the existence of flies to as his subject. Here are some of the more impactful quotes:
Let us try to think the unthinkable; let us try to imagine a Man of a sort willing to invent the fly; that is to say, a man destitute of feeling; a man willing to wantonly torture and harass and persecute myriads of creatures who had never done him any harm and could not if they wanted to, and — the majority of them — poor dumb things not even aware of his existence.
If we can imagine such a man, that is the man that could invent the fly, and send him out on his mission and furnish him his orders: “Depart into the uttermost corners of the earth, and diligently do your appointed work”.
Persecute the sick child; settle upon its eyes, its face, its hands, and gnaw and pester and sting; worry and fret and madden the worn and tired mother who watches by the child…
Settle upon the soldier’s festering wounds in field and hospital and drive him frantic while he also prays…
Harry and persecute the forlorn and forsaken wretch who is perishing of the plague, and in his terror and despair praying; bite, sting, feed upon his ulcers, dabble your feet in his rotten blood, gum them thick with plague-germs…
…feet cunningly designed and perfected for this function ages ago…carry this freight to a hundred tables, among the just and the unjust, the high and the low, and walk over the food and gaum it with filth and death.
Twain sums up his thoughts with considerable emotion and power.
It is plain that there is one moral law for heaven and another for the earth. The pulpit assures us that wherever we see suffering and sorrow which we can relieve and do not do it, we sin, heavily. There was never yet a case of suffering or sorrow which God could not relieve. Does He sin, then? If He is the Source of Morals He does — certainly nothing can be plainer than that, you will admit.