The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1935
The Adventures of Mago West in Pursuit of Intelligence
The Adventures of Mago West in Pursuit of Intelligence
Mago sighed and shrugged.
"No, Maggie, but I'm sick and tired of all this sex stuff. I want a change."
"But, Honey, de world lubs you."
"Yes, Maggie, but only on account of my figure. I want them to look up to me as some body intellectual, like Beverley Nicholls or Mussolini."
"There ain't no sich thing," murmured Maggie sceptically.
"Intellect, you mean? There must be. Lots of people say they have it. Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, and lots of them. That's why they're famous."
"Cause they says they got intelleck," asserted Maggie scornfully. "Anybody can say it. Yo' say it, Honey, and quit worrying yo' pretty head. They'll believe anything yo' say."
"But that's not what I want, Mammy. I want to find out for myself what intelligence is, and what I must do to get it."
Maggie cackled her derision. "Yo' go then, ma honey, and see if Ahm not right."
The old black woman meant it as a joke. But, to her dismay, and in spite of all her protestations, Mago West chose to take her seriously, and without more ado, set out in pursuit of intelligence.
* * * *
It was a big field, but its only occupants were Mago, a man, and a scarecrow. On the whole, she decided, the man looked the more intelligent. Full of young enthusiasm, she approached him.
"What," began Mago, rapturously, "is life?"
"Spuds," returned the labourer, "six bob a day, six days a week. That's life."
"And what is death?" queried Mago.
"I don't bother about such things," replied the labourer. "I got enough to worry about with three flaming kids and a sick wife without bothering about death. Besides, I'm as good as the next man. If I don't go to heaven, there's precious few will. Precious few."
"What is heaven?" asked Mago, curiously.
"That's where all the Bible-bangers go. Guess I'm as good as they are."
"You're going, are you?" suggested Mago.
"Aw, there mightn't be any such place."
"Aren't you sure, then?"
He glared at her in rising anger. "Look here, it doesn't matter two hoots whether I'm sure or not. There may be a heaven and a God, or there may not; there may be a hell, but it's not my job to look into the matter."
"Tell me more about this God," demanded Mago.
"Look here, lady," he began wrathfully, "do you take me for a ruddy parson. I don't—"
"But you do know something about these things," asseverated Mago, "you said yourself there might be a God or a heaven or a hell."
Ignorance in a surreptitious beast that pads quietly in the darkness until cornered. Then it springs. "I don't know anything," he roared. "Now get away."
Mago retreated from this unmerited eruption. "You are an amazing fellow," she said. "You half believe in these most important things, and yet you are too apathetic to verify them. I can't find intelligence in you." And she fled before he could hurl a potato.
She was very upset, she decided; and, thinking miserably on this line, she almost tripped over the legs of an elderly gentleman who had crawled half-way through the hedge to watch the argument. "I'm sorry," apologised Mago, "but you needn't have hidden—it wasn't a private conversation. Please can you tell me where I can find intelligence? Are you intelligent?"
"I am," replied the old gentleman, stroking his beard. "My child, it is the duty of every man to seek for Truth and follow it. If one's beliefs are illogical, they must be forthwith discarded, regardless of cost. I am constantly telling people so. Otherwise one has no claim to intelligence."page 35
"Sir," said Mago, impressed by his bearded eloquence, "perhaps you can tell me something. That man spoke of a God, and it worries me a little. Is there a God?"
The bearded chin jerked slightly, and she realised she had said something funny. "No, my child," said the old gentleman, "there is no God. The universe evolved itself, and had no need of a Creator. A pleasant legend, nothing more."
Mago clapped her hands ecstatically. "Evolution! Oh, how thrilling. Tell me about it."
"Evolution came about in this way. By successive improvements to the original lowliest form of life, new types were gradually evolved, still constantly improving, until in the course of millions and millions of years—and the more millions the better—the great variety of life now apparent came into being. That's all there is in it," concluded the elderly gentleman obligingly.
"All that from a few little bugs?" exclaimed Mago. "How thrilling. . . . Where did you get your little bugs?"
"Ah," said the elderly gentleman, half proudly, "there you have me. But not for long, I'll wager. It is one of the immutable laws of Nature that life can come only, from antecedent life. We threw overboard all those silly ideas about spontaneous generation years ago."
"But I do not understand," said Mago, bewildered by this manifestation of logic. "Where did the little bugs start?"
"Please call them amoebae," suggested the elderly gentleman, in pained accents, and, seeing her hesitation, "cells, then."
"What I want to know," said Mago forcibly, "is where these sells came from."
"You'll know in time, no doubt," smiled the elderly gentleman indulgently. "Meanwhile, just rest assured that, spontaneous generation or not, the proved fact of evolution need not be doubted. Spontaneous generation must have taken place just once, an exception to the general rule. You must see that. Evolution must have had a beginning."
"Assuming life did come from something else. from what did it come?"
"From non-living matter," replied the elderly gentleman. "What else?"
"And where did the non-living matter come from?" pursued Mago.
"Haven't you any faith?" snapped the elderly gentleman, beginning to lose patience.
"Well, where did it all start? You've got to have a starting point somewhere," reasoned Mago. "You cannot have an effect without a cause."
"That old argument again," snarled the elderly gentleman.
"I'll find a newer one, when you have answered that," retorted Mago, hotly.
"Bah!" shouted the elderly gentleman, jumping back into the hedge. "You want religious dogma, not intelligence. I refuse to talk with you. You're ignorant. Thank God I'm an atheist."
"I can't find intelligence in you, in any case," countered Mago, "any more than in that labourer. You say it is impossible that things could have started themselves, and you deny that anybody could have started them." Very indignant, Mago went on her way.
A little way off stood a fine holiday cottage, and Mago hastened thither, determined to make someone suffer for the disappointment she had received.
Finding a man at a typewriter, "Please, sir," she said, "I'm looking for intelligence."
"Intelligence," he replied, swinging around in his chair and giving her a broadside of pure intellectual force—"Intelligence is a rare and elusive quality. But you can now tell your friends that you have at least seen it. Good-bye!"
Mago's burgeoning temerity turned blue at the roots.
The last man I met said that," she pleaded, "but he had no starting point."
"Oh, you met him, did you? Yes, he's a clever old chap all right, but utterly materialistic. Such a pity. There must have been a first cause some time."
"Well, what is this God like?" asked Mago.
"He is a god of love, my child," said a sonorous voice over by the window.
"Rubbish, Bishop; rubbish," retorted the writer, testily. "You ought to know better than teach such foolishness. Don't you believe in Evolution?"
"My friend," said the Bishop, solemnly, coming in and sitting in the best chair, "Evolution is one thing and the Bible is an page 36 other. I have sufficient faith to believe in both. The love of God is apparent everywhere."
"In jail inmates and cholera germs," sneered the writer.
"Now you are talking evolution," observed the Bishop, blandly. "I was discussing God. Oil and wine do not mix. God is apparent, even if He has no other existence whatever, in the good and kind actions of men."
"Their good morals evolved just as their good bodies did," insisted the writer.
"Never," said the Bishop, decidedly. "Never. I am sure of that. That admirable fellow Huxley agrees with me. He said that man owes his supremacy to the qualities he shares with the ape and the tiger. Had there been no God to inculcate holiness into us, cruelty and treachery would have been the moral equipment bestowed upon us by evolution. What have you to say to that?"
"I don't say anything to it," snapped the writer. "I say that God is half a devil, just as the Bishop of Birmingham says—("I regret that," murmured the Bishop. "He needn't have said it.") and if God made the world, I see no love manifested in His method. God is absolutely, devilishly responsible for a system of evolution in which the rise to superiority is only attained by treading inferior beings into a gory mess, and mounting upwards on their remains, only to be trodden down in turn. The quintessence of cruelty is evolution—evolution is God. God is love? Bah! God is hate. God is a biological experimentalist."
"I tell you, my friend," began the Bishop, heatedly, "your belief in a God of hate implies all His works would be hateful. And what do we find—"
"Not much to the contrary," glared the writer, "and let me tell you—"
"Good-bye," said Mago.
They turned to stare at her.
"Where are you going?" demanded the Bishop.
"In search of intelligence," said Mago, obligingly.
"But you've found it," they chorused.
"I have not. You're Achilles' heel all over—both of you." And Mago walked on, leaving them staringly blankly at one another, until they remembered the discussion, and began to argue again, and argue and argue on and on and on.
* * * *
A whole day spent, and no intelligence. A hot tear trickled down Mago's cheek as she hurried home through the dusk. She would have to admit Maggie was right, and even now, she didn't know what intelligence was. She was heading for home, and meant to brook no opposition. She felt, if anybody interrogated her now, she would burst into tears all over his waistcoat.
All her melancholy thoughts were suddenly dispersed by a huge voice bellowing sombrely through the dusk, "Repent and be saved." A shadowy figure left the shadowy ring, and attached itself to her. "Are you saved?" he demanded.
Mago recoiled. "I don't know what you mean. I'm looking for intelligence."
He stroked his chin ruminatively. "We don't make a specialty of dispensing that," he said. "Salvation is our theme. But if you want that other, you can find as much here as anywhere else—or more."
"How come?" demanded Mago. "Street preachers aren't intelligent?"
'We haven't a great deal of brains, but we've no intellectual dilemmas," he assured her.
"Oh, haven't you?" objected Mago. "You believe in a God of love, don't you?"
"Well, I don't think much of your God. If He evolved the world, He made a sorry mess of it. He deliberately—"
"Hold on," interrupted the preacher, "God didn't evolve the world."
"Then, who did?"
"God created the world. That's what we believe."
"Amounts to the same thing, doesn't it? God created the evil of the world instead of evolving it. God nevertheless is responsible."
"God made everything perfect in the first place, and put men in a perfect environment so they could obey Him and be happy. It was only when they didn't that He put a curse on the earth to keep them out of mischief, and pro-missed to withdraw it in His own good time. Take it from me, God is not responsible for page 37 the evil in the world; men are. Tragedy's root is sin.
"Well," said Mago, drawing a deep breath, "I have heard some funny things to-day, but you need not think I am going to swallow that. Besides, the others were intellectuals. All this is just what you say. How do you prove your fanciful, cosmic scheme?"
"There isn't really much choice," said the preacher. "You must be either a Christian or an Evolutionist."
"I don't see that," objected Mago. "Why not a Buddist or a Mohammedan?"
"All others are merely ethical," explained the preacher. "Christianity and Evolution are the only two religions which concern you, in search of intelligence as you are, because they alone claim to be based on facts, on the truth or falsity of which they either stand or fall. Dispossess them of their cardinal facts, and both are nothing more than empty philosophy."
"All right then, Evolution or Christianity; Which?"
"What have you found about evolution?"
"Many kinds of belief," sighed Mago, "and none of them logical."
"Exactly. And since it comes to a toss between Christianity and Evolution, I prefer Christianity, simply because, if I accept Christianity and reject Evolution, I am logical, which is more than I am if I hold any branch of the evolutionary banyan."
"Oh, yes," admitted Mago, "you are logical all right. As far as that goes, you are unassailable; but what ground have you for denying evolution? You cannot array a few words of logic against a full army of scientific fact."
"The evolutionist makes me sick," declared the preacher, vehemently. "He is like a golfer who sets out to cover the course with nobody to keep an eye on him. He cannot find a starting point because of the old argument, inevitable and unanswerable, about the First Cause. You have got to have a First Cause, and it has to be powerful enough to cause an effect, and supra-mundane enough not to be an effect in itself. So our golfer picks up his ball, marches a few yards down the course, tees up and drives. Immediately the ball lands in the bunkers."
"Principle of conservation of energy. You cannot make energy, and the energy contained in the universe is a fixed quantity, and cannot have been evolved. Where did it come from? The golfer picks up his ball, advances a hundred yards and drives again. And straight away he is stuck. This time it is because he finds he has not got a club to hit the ball."
"What's the club?" wondered Mago.
"Theory of spontaneous generation. From whence did life come? Science tells us, only from antecedent life. How could it have evolved from inorganic matter? So he carries his ball to the hole, and even then he finds he cannot drop it in, because the opening is shut. Evolution says one species changes into another; science says one species cannot change into another. So he takes his ball, shoulders his paraphernalia and tells everybody how he holed out in one."
"It isn't golf!" protested Mago.
"It isn't science," riposted the preacher. "There is no definite proof for either Evolution or Christianity, and whatever position each individual takes up depends upon the emphasis he places upon the facts. Personally, if evolution is science, I would rather be logical than scientific."
"Holy smoke," muttered Mago, feelingly, "to search the world for intelligence and find it here —here of all places."
"Why not stay here? You've reached the bottom of the world, and the peak of common-sense."
"Sorry," apologised Mago, "another time. I've got to think this out."
Some hours later she said to Maggie: "You were wrong, Maggie; there is such a thing as intelligence. I am wondering now whether my public would like to have some of it."
"Yo' put it to them, Honey, and see," counselled Maggie.
And so (as you no doubt remember) Mago West in her next film faced her admirers and said: "Listen, folks, I want to do the right thing for you. I've been hunting for intelligence, and maybe you'd like some."
And the vast concourse who periodically crouched in darkness before the shimmering screen gathered its strength and replied per postcards, letter-cards, letters, stamped and unstamped—"We don't want .... but give us lots and lots and lots and lots . . . ."
After all, fifty million morons can't be wrong!
—"I. Cor. 1, 20."