Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/699

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MONERA, AND THE PROBLEM OF LIFE.

posed the effortless contrivance and accomplishment of all that is so laboriously painful, joyful, marvelous to us.

This, in its best sense, means blind surrender of all knowledge to implicit trust. But life, grown conscious amid incessant struggle and remorseless fate, feels now sufficiently inured and emboldened not to shrink from prying with utmost earnestness into the secret of its own significance. It yearns to comprehend.

However, one obstacle removed, another at once takes its place. It so happens, namely, that we ourselves are most ingenious contrivers, all of us inveterate mechanists from our birth, using with much advantage things that already are. And, very likely, because of such universal human propensity, the advanced thinkers of our race conceive that a chaos of some kind of original stuff must have served a similar purpose to an infinitely mightier contriver, maker, Nature, or whatever special appellation anthropomorphic or metaphysical predilection may dictate for it. Poor philosophy this, that has to beg the entire question. No, we are very far yet from having solved the riddle of final causes and natural synthesis. We stand on the outside, perplexed as ever, in spite of Hume's concentrative naturalism, and Kant's schools of criticism and transcendentalism. No word of prophetic speech, or weighing knowledge, has yet uttered the true meaning of things. Our mind, with its shallow dip, emotional and mechanical, does but pierce the rippling face of creative profundity.

One point, however, one steadfast point, is everywhere discernible among the phantasmal shifting of appearances and thoughts; and this one positive element of truth thus enunciates itself: Only by unremitting, infinitely graduated, indwelling travail, does at all times the fruit of existence receive its birth. The import of this guiding truth can be but superficially reprojected and numerically symbolized by the recognition of signs of inorganic evolution, and the heaping of ages upon ages of geological time. Its real value can be realized only by the discovery and penetration of its actual source of emanation—organization.

Perhaps our monera will materially assist us in gaining some estimate of the potency of organization. In its adequate composition will consist the arduous task of the philosophy of the future.

The study of moneric protoplasm has disclosed that so-called contractility is not merely a property of the living substance, but that it is its function, stimulated by the dynamical influences of the medium, and effected by means of chemical disintegration. The organic molecule, before it experienced its chemical, its functional rupture, was held together by the bond of inwrought chemical affinities. Now that disassociation has been accomplished, these chemical affinities are left unsatisfied. The disintegrated protoplasm forms but one complemental part of a higher, most definite combination. If the other complemental part should happen to be in readiness somewhere, and be brought, by some means or other, into actual contact with the mutilated protoplasm,