The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)
Meet Mister Man
The Wonders of Wonder.
The world is as full of interest as a pawn-broker's day-dream, and unless one is so mentally moribund with cash calculations and arithmeticulous tabulations that one's sense of wonder has been battered blind by the clang of the cash-register, one must find food for constant cogitation concerning the creative correlations of the Curator of the Cosmos. From the sweet perfection of the bee's knee to the towering triumph of the aged tree, from the precision of the spheres to the action of the oyster, from the salivous sagacity of the snail to the Satanic sapience of the snake, from the mechanical perfection of a tick's heart to the rhythmic beat fo a bat's wing, from the groping gravitation of the monkey towards the mental mutability of man, from the intricacies of an insect's eye to the mirificence of the moon, from the life locked in a seed to the mortality mooted by a microbe, there is more than sufficient interest in existence to fill the lives of a cartload of cats.
Insight and Outlook.
But life is as short as a borrower's memory and the years are as insistent as rent day or the ballyhoo of Big Ben putting the K.O. on the “heigho” in the cold grey dawn. Time tallies the ticks as they speed through the gates of experience, and there is no waiting—no delay.
Thus, there is time only to muse on the many manifestations of the wondrous work of the Cosmic Craftsman and, at most, to interpret the intricacies of one of his mechanical marvels.
So, some study the stellar stage for the secret of eternity, some search stones for sermons, some solicit the secrets of the System from creatures that crawl and creep; others tap the terrestrial tabernacle for fecund forces to harass and harness; some study the skulls of the past in an effort to explain the stupidity of the present—or, in other words, strive to solve the riddle of the Rumpus from the skulls of the “skedaddled.”
But the grated majority is so busy battling for butter to put over its bread or for bread to put under its butter, that its mental manoeuvres are dedicated to the study of wolves and how to keep them off the doorstep.
But, all stings considered, the most moving study for man is Man, his actions reactions ructions deductions, mental, moral, physical, quizzical, Quixotic and idiotic. Man may be boring, angelic, Satanic, undependable, unamendable, stupid, stupendous, vacuous, vain, vacillating and valorous. He may be Nature's biggest bluff or he may be a gift from the gods. He may be an optimistic illusion or he may be what he thinks he is; but whatever he is—and he is all things for all time—he is always interesting.
“Multum in Parvenu.”
He may rank as less than the parasite on the ant's abdomen in Nature's schedule of comparative utility, but at least he is a thing of infinite variety.
The elephant may have its trunk,
The snake may have its fang,
The over-emanative skunk,
The mad orangutang,
May all lay claim to what they be
In Evolution's plan,
But none has such diversity,
As Cryptic Mister Man.
He's like all insects, beasts and birds,
That hop and fly and run,
And yet, although he lives in herds,
He quite resembles none.
He's neither saint nor Devil's spawn,
(And though he's known to reach,
The heights and depths to which he's born),
He's yet a bit of each.
Tame him, train him, titivate him with trimmings and palliate his primitive passions with synthetic civility— and still he remains but a palpitating poultice of passionate perplexity.
Hit him under the lee of the “lamp,” and, immediately, a bronze-age ancestor rises up and dots you for a row of raspberries; threaten his hearth and home, and his stone-age auntie gives you the gate—without opening it. Step on his corns in the car, and his sabre-toothed sires give you a look guaranteed to lift the whiskers off a barber's pole; touch him on the raw and he will roar like an ice-age bull; but, give him all he wants and he wants more than he can get, and howls like a hyena if he can't get it.
In the words of the song entitled Mr. Booze, “I hate you—no, I love you, Mister Man.”
It was—or it wasn't—Dean Swift who said something about hating man but loving men; and indeed, History seems to say that man is less than the vilest vulpine, more sickeningly sly than a poison-lily, crueller than the crocodile, and as unctuous as a warm fungus. But History gives only half his story. For, from the co-mingling of cogent cogitation and atavistic aberration arises an intermittent internal intoxication which lifts him to the peak of Parnassus and lowers him into the limbo of the Lost.
No wonder he always looks as if he is in two minds whether to lie down and masticate mud or rear up and slap the sun.
The Dumb Waiter.
In a mass Man is in a mess; singly he is singular, and each man alone is alone. His tragedy is that, in the midst of multitudes, he is alone. You see the symptoms of his psychological segregation in the street, in the tram, in the mart, in the palaces of pleasure, in the haunts of the great and the seats of the mighty. He may fabricate the fiction of fellowship but, nevertheless, he is a lone wolf parked in the pack. He thinks alone, he lives alone and he dies alone; for no words have been minted, sufficiently subtle to imprint his impressions on the mental matrix of his mates.
Platitudes and Problems.
And therein lies the interest of man for man. Each lone voyager taking passage to Posterity finds in his fellow a problem in instructive analysis; each studies the outward and visible signs of inward and invisible thoughts on the faces of his fellows, in an endeavour to discover whether they think as he thinks, or whether he is as alone as he knows he is.
But it's a great game—this puzzling the problems on the “pans” of the populace. The young and gay, the old and grey, the cynical and sold, the broken and the mended—what are their attitudes and altitudes? Why worry—they don't even know themselves. But,
Heigho, it's good indeed to meet with men,
To talk of nothing, talk again, and then,
Each hiding underneath his dumb deceit,
To thank the gods that there are men to meet.
So here's to Man; the spheres may sneer in cold austerity, but Man is warm and passionate and free. Perhaps he's just a foolish little cuss, but we at least can say “He's one of us.”
London tobacconists say the rush and hurry of modern life are responsible for the largely increased demand for pipe-tobacco in England. Of course it is so! Don't we see the same thing happening in New Zealand? Fact is the rate at which we all live in these hectic times renders tobacco simply invaluable, especially in the case of brain-workers. To call it just a “luxury” is ridiculous. To nine men out of ten it is a prime necessity. Happily for Maorilanders the Dominion is now becoming famous for its tobacco, and the four brands: Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Riverhead Gold, Cavendish, and Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead) are not only renowned for flavour and aroma, but not even their immoderate use can affect the health of the smoker, because they are toasted in the process of manufacture and thus rendered quite harmless. It is worthy of special note, moreover, that these are the only toasted tobaccos. No others are produced. But be cautious when buying. There are imitations (as usual!) on the market!