Puslapio vaizdai

I have given instances of this faculty and the delusions it gives rise to in writing of the horse and guanaco in my "Naturalist in La Plata."

It remains to speak of the sense of direction in man. He is dependent on the same senses and faculties as any other rapacious mammal in his quest for food. No doubt the higher we go in the organic scale the less dependent the animal is on instinct pure and simple; in other words, the more does intelligence enter into the instinctive act. Thus we will find an instinct common to mammals and birds less intelligent and more perfect in the latter. In birds, we may say, the sense of direction is more nearly infallible than in mammals. Thus you will see a basket full of homing pigeons released at the Marble Arch, the birds all flying off in various directions to their homes in different parts of the country, from twenty or thirty to two or more hundred miles distant; and the chances are that not one out of twenty-five or thirty will fail to turn up at its destination. As the pigeon has existed in a domestic state for thousands of generations, it may be assumed that its homing faculty is not as perfect as in the wild bird. The bird has this faculty in greater perfection than the mammal because it needs this, owing to its wings, which give him an immensely wider range and swifter motion. The mammal, moving on the ground, has more need of intelligence in every act of its life, in every step it takes, and, no doubt, memorizes more. Yet I should say that the mammal, including man, in a state of nature, is no more able to do without that sense than the small ant, "lone wandering, but not lost," on the grassy down.

I should say, then, that as mentality enters more into the actions of man, even in his most primitive state, than in other mammals, the sense of direction is less perfect in him than in them. Also that in highly civilized man, especially in urban districts, the sense is so weak as almost to be regarded as obsolescent. Like the sense of smell it is not needed, and in that condition its decay is inevitable. Nevertheless, when the need comes, it revives, and when one is among savages or semicivilized men much given to roaming, one meets with instances of the sense as acute and efficient as in the lower animals.

I heard a good deal said on this subject early in life. As a boy it interested me because, when I took to long solitary rambles, on foot or horseback, I made the discovery that I had a rather poor sense of direction, and when I got lost, which happened from time to time in a fog or at night and even in broad daylight when I was out of sight of all known landmarks, it had an extremely distressing effect on me and appeared to be a danger. Later, when I had grown up, I had some discussions on the subject with a young Gaucho friend. One day in company he told us of a day spent in a search after lost horses at a long distance from the ranch where he had his temporary home. He had a companion with him, and when they were from nine to ten leagues from home, night came very suddenly on them, with a black cloud covering the whole sky and rain in torrents. His companion cried out that there was nothing to do but dismount and spend the night sitting on their saddles and trying to keep themselves dry by wrapping their skin horse-rugs and ponchos

round them. My friend laughed at such a proposal, and said that they would go back and would be at home in about four hours or so and would then be able to dry their clothes and get something to eat. The other was incredulous; it was all a flat plain with no road and not a star to show them the way. Nevertheless, they set out, and arrived before midnight at the hovel which was their destination, and only when they dismounted and pushed the door open could he convince his companion that no road or light of star was needed to find your way back; nothing, in fact, was wanting but one's own sense.

It was just that sense, I told him, that I was without, and I knew that many others were in the same condition, otherwise we should not hear of people getting lost. That he possessed this sense in such perfection seemed almost incredible.

He replied that to him it seemed incredible that any sane person complete in his senses should be without it. He had to believe there were such men, just as there were others blind or deaf or idiots from birth. It made him laugh. For how could any one, no matter how far he might go in a strange district or how many turns he might take, fail to know just where he was and the exact direction of the place he wished to return to? You could take him blindfolded fifty leagues off into any place unknown to him, and lead him now in this or that direction, then take off the bandage in a dark night and set him free, and he would not be lost. Naturally he would know the right direction to take. How could he help knowing it?

I was surprised at hearing all this as up till then I had looked on this

young Gaucho friend who did not know a letter of the alphabet as a goodnatured half-fool. He was a big fellow, so dark, with such thick lips and such broad nostrils, that one supposed he had negro blood in him, and, negro-like, he was much given to laughter. But he had coarse, lank black hair, which was not negro-like. As he had been so much on horseback he waddled on the ground, and was like a big clumsy animal walking with difficulty on its hind legs. Then, there were his garments; one, waistcoat or blouse, as a rule, new and of some crude, glaring color, yellow or scarlet or blue, and all the others old and frayed and the color of clay. Usually he was without boots, being a poor devil, with his big iron spurs buckled on his bare feet. But now I conceived a great respect for him and envied him the possession of something I lacked.

This is perhaps an extreme case; nevertheless, men of that kind, who were never lost and never at a loss, were not uncommon on our Argentine frontiers. A man of that kind, who had a bold and adventurous spirit as well, was called a rastreador, and was employed to go out into the desert to spy on the Indians.

It is probable that even in our ultra-civilized state there are individual persons among us who possess the sense in a high degree, although they may not know it themselves, just as there are those who have a sense of smell as acute as that of any pure savage. This would not be strange: more wonderful is the fact that on some rare occasion the faculty should revive and burn in its pristine power in a person in whom it had appeared to be non-existent. Here is a case in point.

Years ago, when following a discussion on a sense of direction in man in one of the weekly journals, I read of an instance of this reversion of the brain to a past state, a recovery of a lost sense. It occurred to a man, a dweller in a town, who went with a friend for an autumn holiday in a forest district in North America. They camped on the borders of a forest at a distance from any settlement, and the narrator, taking his gun, went off alone into the woods to look for something to shoot. He spent long hours in the forest, and at last, when he was deep in it, surrounded on all sides by trees and remembered that he had taken many turns, it suddenly came to him with a shock that he was lost, miles distant, probably, from his starting-point, and had not the faintest idea in which direction it was. He was terribly distressed, for the day was drawing to a close, and he feared that to whichsoever side he directed his steps it would perhaps only take him farther away. He fired several shots in the hope that some hunter or some one looking for him would hear them and come to his rescue. But no one came, and no answering shot or shout broke the silence. Then, when his distress was greatest, when he was in despair, all at once a light came to him, a sudden sense of relief, a feeling and a conviction that he knew exactly which direction to take. So convinced was he that he set out not only confidently, but gladly. His instinct proved true.


This narrative interested me deeply simply because it so closely resembled an experience I once had, the one and only time when I have known the

full meaning of such a sense, its certitude, and its value to the lower animals and to man living in a state of nature, as he has existed for, let us say, a million years. My case was this. I was in a forest and in the middle of a thick wood covering an area of several miles, with dense thickets and bogs and streams on its borders. I had been in it for several hours, watching some woodland birds I was interested in. Absorbed in my occupation, night surprised me, and a sudden darkness, caused by a cloud, overspreading the sky, I realized that I was lost, since I did not know in which part of the wood I was or which direction to take, and could not see on which side the sun had gone down. I feared, too, that if I tried to get out, I should most probably get among the bogs and streams and dense thickets. And it was getting cold, as I was in the thinnest summer clothes and had been perspiring profusely. Suddenly, while standing there peering into the thick blackness all round me and feeling keenly distressed, relief came, and it was as if I had been captive and was unexpectedly set free. I did not know where I was and where the feared bogs were, but I knew in which direction to go. There was no hesitation, no shadow of a doubt. Off I went, rejoicing, where my supernatural faculty, as it then almost seemed to be, commanded, and after walking for half an hour came upon a blacker blackness, where the undergrowth was so dense that it was extremely difficult to force my way through it. Again and again I came to places like that, yet dared not attempt to get round these thickets, fearing that if I varied the least bit from the bee-line I was making, I might lose the sense of

direction that guided me. I must, I felt, keep the line. Eventually I got free of the wood, and coming into an open space, I dimly discerned a dwarf tree with a stout, malformed trunk, which I recognized as one of my landmarks on the borders of the wood, and there saw that I was actually making a bee-line for my destination. Now I knew where I was, and remembered that another smaller wood lay before me, then a mile or so of open grass-land to the lonely farm-house I was making for.

The feeling I had experienced on that one occasion, from the moment it came to me in the depths of that dark wood that I knew my way, was one of intense elation. It affected me like the recovery of something exceedingly precious so long lost that I had been without hope of ever finding it again; and it was like the recovery of sight to a blind man; or like that "vision of paradise" which a temporary recovery of the sense of smell had seemed to Wordsworth as he sat in a garden full of flowers; or like the recovery of memory in one who had lost that faculty. And this elation lasted until I recognized the landmark, the deformed tree, and began to memorize the wood that yet remained to be got through, and the open ground beyond it. Memory and Memory and thinking took the place of something that had been like an inspiration, an intuition, and had a sobering effect. I had now to rely on my memory and reasoning faculties.

It was a strange experience, per

haps the strangest I have ever had, when I remember the many occasions on which I have lost myself and have had long anxious hours of wandering in some unfamiliar place with no faintest intimation of any such helpful sense in me. For if this sense is so feeble in or so lost to us, how came it to revive and function so perfectly on this one occasion? The psychologist cannot help me, seeing that he takes no account of such a faculty; nor the physiologist, since there is no organ known to his science. But there is, there must be, an organ, albeit unrecognizable, a specialized nerve in the brain, I suppose, which keeps a record of all our turns and windings about, and ever, like the magnetic needle, swings faithfully round to point infallibly in the direction to which we desire in the end to return. This, at all events, is how it must be in the lower animal and in savage men. Admitting so much, how came it to revive and function so perfectly in an individual person who had appeared to be without it? I can only suppose that it is not actually obsolete in us, that it still exists and continues to function feebly-so feebly, indeed, that we rarely or never become aware of it. If this be so, I take it that on this one occasion the nerve was excited by my mental state, the agitation I felt, the sense of being lost in that dark wood, that in that state it recovered the record of all the changes of direction I had taken in my roamings about, and eventually produced that conscious feeling of confidence.

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