Why read it? Series of essays concerned with the meaning of evolution. Eiseley bridges the two cultures of science and art. By profession he is a paleontologist. He views evolution as a continuing process, to become—who knows what? Men and women as they are now will not be the men and women of the far future. We are working out what we are going to be.
Eiseley’s sentences are blends of metaphor, paradox, and suggestiveness. He may seem to be speaking directly, but he almost never is. The reader of Eiseley’s essays always has plenty of room for reflection. Eiseley begins his essays with little incidents in his daily experience.
Sample quotes and ideas:
“…all a part of one of life’s strangest qualities—its eternal dissatisfaction with what is, its persistent habit of reaching out into new environments and, by degrees, adapting itself to the most fantastic circumstances.” p. 26. ……….
“…the reaching out that began a billion years ago is still in process.” p. 31. ……….
”The ingredients [of life] are known; they are to be had on any drug store shelf.” p. 32.
“It gives one a feeling of confidence to see nature still busy with experiments, still dynamic….” p. 34. ……….
“It pays to know there is just as much future as there is past; the only thing that doesn’t pay is to be sure of man’s own part in it.” p. 34. ……….
“Never make the mistake of thinking life is now adjusted for eternity.” p. 35. ……….
“There are things still coming ashore.” p. 39. ……….
“We are one of many appearances of the thing called life; we are not its perfect image, for it has no image except life, and life is multitudinous and emergent in the stream of time.” p. 43.
“Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star.” p. 46. ……….
“…our heads, the little globes which hold the midnight sky and the shining, invisible universes of thought, have been taken about as much for granted as the growth of a yellow pumpkin in the fall.” p. 62. ……….
“Creature of dream, he [man] has created an invisible world of ideas, beliefs, habits, and customs which buttress him about and replace for him the precise instincts of the lower creatures.” p. 65. ……….
“Man had escaped out of the eternal present of the animal world into a knowledge of past and future.” p. 87.
“The hand that hefted the ax, out of some blind allegiance to the past fondles the machine gun as lovingly.” p. 101. ……….
“The world, I have come to believe, is a very queer place, but we have been part of this queerness for so long that we tend to take it for granted.” p. 118. ……….
“Sometimes of late years I find myself thinking the most beautiful sight in the world might be the birds taking over New York after the last man has run away to the hills.” p. 136.
“The shape [of man] is the evolutionary product of a strange, long wandering through the attics of the forest roof, and so great are the chances of failure, that nothing precisely and identically human is likely ever to come that way again.” p. 116.
“Of men elsewhere, and beyond, there will be none forever.” p. 117.
Comment: Like Emerson, Eiseley writes with the sentence and every sentence stimulates a series of related thoughts. RayS.