Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/10

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This being true, is it not remarkable that such unanimity of agreement should have resulted from its application? It appears to predicate the existence of a racial concept of greatness. Undoubtedly this racial idea exists. Philosophers of esthetics have troubled themselves not a little to account for its origination. While considering this elusory problem, the following solution has occurred to me. I offer it as an hypothesis.

An investigation of the specific works accomplished by men ranked great reveals a curious fundamental similarity: They all relate to the heroic. That is to say they are either actual deeds which relieved an individual, a community or a nation from danger, or they commemorate such deeds in a masterly way. The favorite theme of poets has always been "arms, and the man." And painters and sculptors have immortalized men whose acts furnish the implied answer to the query of brave Horatius, the keeper of the gate:

How can a man die better than by facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers and the altars of his gods?

By this analysis, the statesman is but the warrior who, with intellect as weapon, defends his nation.

If we consider the evolution of human society, it is not difficult to understand how this conception of greatness has grown up and established itself in the subconscious racial mind.

Back yonder in the gray and murky dawn of time, man was not that we see him to-day. Then, indeed, the conditions were exactly reversed; and man—puny, naked, defenceless—cowered in caves, or wandered miserably about seeking the sustenance which his nature demanded, but for the winning of which he was more illy equipped than the beetle that he crushed beneath his heel. Behind every rock, in every bunch of herbage, in every stream and pool, in the air he breathed, in the clouds that rolled above his head, in the glare of the sun, and in the gloom of night lurked death and a thousand dismal terrors.

That the human species escaped extermination at its very beginning is a marvel, and due solely to the one point wherein man is superior to other animals, namely, greater development of the frontal brain wherein lie the centers of memory and language. In that primitive society were some who remembered what things were good for food and where to be found; and so provided against death by poison and famine. Some devised protection against carnivorous animals or enemies of their own kind. These became head men. And, on account of their superior knowledge or prowess, they were esteemed while living and revered when dead. The memory of their deeds lived after them in song and story. And so they were gradually transformed from men into heroes and, later, into gods.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, alluding to the influence of heredity, sa