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Page:Conventional Lies of our Civilization.djvu/283

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The Matrimonial Lie.




I.

Man has two powerful instincts which govern his whole life and give the first impulse to all his actions: the instinct of self-preservation and the instinct of race-preservation. The former reveals itself in its simplest form as hunger, the latter as love. The forces which produce the phenomena of nourishment and propagation are still obscure to us, but we can watch their operation clearly. We do not know why one individual completes his circle of development in a certain number of years instead of another; why the large and powerful horse can only grow to be 35 years old, while the smaller and weaker animal, man, on the contrary, lives to be 70; why the raven lives 200 years, while the goose, so much larger, only lives 20 years. But what we do know is that every living being is destined to a certain length of life from the moment of its birth, like a clock wound to run a certain number of hours—this time can be shortened by the operation of casual, external forces, but under no circumstances can it be lengthened. In the same way we assume that the species is destined to last a certain term of years; like an individual it arises at a certain fixed moment, is born, develops, comes to maturity and dies. The cycle of life of a species is too extended for men to be able to determine by direct observation the moment of its beginning and end. But paleontology gives us sufficient data to enable us without hesitation, to announce as