The physiology of taste, by Brillat-Savarin

Meditation X.

An Episode on the End of the World.

I said β€” last sublunary revolution, and this idea awakened many strange ideas.

Many things demonstrate to us that our globe has undergone many changes, each of which was, so to say, β€œan end of the world.” Some instinct tells us many other changes are to follow.

More than once, we have thought these revolutions likely to come, and the comet of Jerome Lalande has sent many persons to the confessional.

The effect of all this has been that every one is disposed to surround this catastrophe with vengeance, exterminating angels, trumps and other accessories.

Alas! there is no use to take so much trouble to ruin us. We are not worth so much display, and if God please, he can change the surface of the globe without any trouble.

Let us for a moment suppose that one of those wandering stars, the route and mission of which none know, and the appearance of which is always accompanied by some traditional terror; let us suppose that it passes near enough to the sun, to be charged with a superabundance of caloric, and approach near enough to us to create a heat of sixty degrees Reaumur over the whole earth (as hot again as the temperature caused by the comet of 1811.)

All vegetation would die, all sounds would cease. The earth would revolve in silence until other circumstances had evolved other germs: yet the cause of this disaster would have remained lost in the vast fields of air, and would never have approached us nearer than some millions of leagues.

This event, which in the main, has ever seemed to me a fit subject for reverie, and I never ceased for a moment to dwell on it.

This ascending heat is curious to be looked after, and it is not uninteresting to follow its effects, expansion, action, and to ask:

How great it was during the first, second, and subsequent days.

What effect it had on the earth, and water, and on the formation and mingling, and detonation of gasses.

What influence it had on men, as far as age, sex, strength and weakness are concerned.

What influence it has on obedience to the laws, submission to authority, and respect to persons and property.

What one should do to escape from danger.

What influence it has on love, friendship, parental affection, self-love and devotion.

What is its influence on the religious sentiments, faith, resignation and hope.

History can furnish us a few facts on its moral influence, for the end of the world has more than once been predicted and determined.

I am very sorry that I cannot tell my readers how I settled all this, but I will not rob them of the pleasure of thinking of the matter themselves. This may somewhat shorten some of their sleepless hours, and ensure them a few siestas during the day.

Great danger dissolves all bonds. When the yellow fever was in Philadelphia, in 1792, husbands closed the doors on their wives, children deserted their fathers, and many similar phenomena occurred.

Quod a nobis Deus avertat!

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31