The Time Machine
(Wells, H. G., Herbert George)
“Above me shone the stars, for the night was very clear. I felt a certain sense of friendly comfort in their twinkling. All the old constellations had gone from the sky, however: that slow movement which is imperceptible in a hundred human lifetimes, had long since rearranged them in unfamiliar groupings. But the Milky Way, it seemed to me, was still the same tattered streamer of star-dust as of yore.”
‘Well, mace in one hand and Weena in the other, I went out of that gallery and into another and still larger one, which at the first glance reminded me of a military chapel hung with tattered flags. The brown and charred rags that hung from the sides of it, I presently recognized as the decaying vestiges of books. They had long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance of print had left them. But here and there were warped boards and cracked metallic clasps that told the tale well enough. Had I been a literary man I might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition. But as it was, the thing that struck me with keenest force was the enormous waste of labour to which this sombre wilderness of rotting paper testified. At the time I will confess that I thought chiefly of the Philosophical Transactions and my own seventeen papers upon physical optics.
An easy, simple little novel.
Wells’ education shines through very well here, yet he takes care (with the one exception noted) not to date his novel. And his education seems impressive – writing with a style, information, and commentary from over a century ago, yet so applicable to our time. Perhaps Wells’ didn’t get everything right – we are indeed moving in a healthier, more “green” direction, bound to care for the planet on which we evolved – but he hits the mark close enough. The work seems a modern-day novel of the philosophers from thousands of years ago.
To hear a man writing over a century before I was even born write about the same stars I view – indeed, this is unquestionably our most timeless link to ages and civilizations past – comforts me, reminds me that as I star-gaze I also time-gaze throughout the passage of the great equilibrator. The stars would be little different for our Paleolithic ancestors tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago, and that should make us feel connected, warm.
The above quote on the worthlessness about books is impressive, challenging, even if it isn’t serious. Should we still write if the works – and the experiences and emotions they invoke or the lessons they teach – all fade with time? Hardly, for all men and memories too shall fade, yet that doesn’t mean we should not live, nor teach and learn from the written word!