Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

21 July, 2008

What animal controls your spirit?

Don't be a stubborn a mule, study your make-up

I have made a study of the work of Arthur Brisbane, a clever writer and commentator on life, who was in his prime at least 10 years before I was born. What impresses me most about Brisbane is his clever, thought-provoking style, often with a touch of subtle humor and an unusual turn of phrase. His take on man's link with animals is a classic case in point. "Our good and bad qualities are mapped out in our humble animal relations," was his particular thesis. "Of all animals upon earth man came last...All earth's animal creations are bound up in man."

The Bible and Darwin do agree that man and woman were created last of all animals. Very superficial observation suggests also that humans contain in their mental make-up many "inferior" animals. In Brisbane's words, "If you could be divided into your component animal parts there would be a menagerie in your house...That thing we call 'soul' would be floating around, impalpable, looking for home."
It was his observation that we see the animal make-up in our neighbors more readily than we recognize it in ourselves. For example:
He is as sly as a fox.
He eats like a pig.
He has dog-like faithfulness.
He is as brave as a lion.
He is as slippery as a snake.
He was as hungry as a wolf.
He runs like a deer.
He is as meek as a lamb.
He is as stubborn as a mule.

You get the point. Good and bad qualities are linked to our humble animal relations. With tongue firmly in cheek, Brisbane suggested that "no doubt each of the 12 passions that enter into *Fourier's complex analysis of man each has its prototype in some one animal." He contended further that to rebel at the animal combination which make up a human would be folly. "The Maker of us all, from ants to anti-imperialists, naturally gathered together the various parts in lower animal form before finishing the work in man. A harmoniously balanced mixture of all the animals is calculated undoubtedly to produce the perfect man."

True to form, Brisbane did not leave the subject without offering some sage advice. He urged us to analyze honestly and intelligently the so-called "lower" creatures from whom we derive our mental characteristics. Then do our best to control the menagerie that is at work in our mind. "Discourage Mr. Pig, if he is too prominent. Circumvent Mr. Fox, if he tries to rule you and make of you a mere cunning machine. Do not let **Old Dog Tray qualities of friendship lead to your being made a fool. In short, study carefully the animal qualities that make up your temperament and prove in your own person the falseness of Napoleon's irritating statement that a man's temperament can never be changed by himself."

Now you know a little of why I enjoy this luminary of the written word so much. To me he was a clever, funny and wise "old owl".
Several of Brisbane's dated references no doubt require explanation. * Jean Baptiste Fourier (1768-1830) was a French mathematician and physicist best known for initiation of Fournier series and their application to problems of heat flow. Don't even attempt to understand his "analysis of man" unless you are at least a third-year applied mathematics undergraduate. Lyrics for ** Old Dog Tray were written and composed by Steven C. Foster in 1853. A portion of the chorus goes something like this: Old dog Tray`s ever faithful, grief cannot drive him away. He`s gentle, he`s kind; I`ll never find a better friend than old dog Tray.
What good are tombstones and cemetery fences?

Here's another Brisbane gem.
"A tombstone is a queer thing, something like a fence around a cemetery. If you amount to anything, you don't need a tombstone. If you don't amount to anything, a tombstone won't do you any good. The fence around a cemetery is foolish because those inside can't get out, and those outside don't want to get in."

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