“We awake to consciousness to find ourselves, clothed in flesh, and in company with other like beings, resting on what seems to us a plane surface. Above us, when the clouds do not conceal them, the sun shines by day and the moon and stars by night. Of what this place is, and of our relations to it, the first men probably knew little more than is presented to us in direct consciousness, little more in fact than the animals know; and, individually, we ourselves could know little more. But the observations and reflections of many succeeding men, garnered and systematized, enable us of the modern civilization to know, and with the eyes of the mind almost to see, things to which the senses untaught by reason are blind.

By the light of this gathered knowledge we behold ourselves, the constantly changing tenants of the exterior of a revolving sphere, circling around a larger and luminous sphere, the sun, and beset on all sides by depths of space, to which we can neither find nor conceive of limits. Through this immeasurable space revolve myriads of luminous bodies of the nature of our sun, surrounded, it is confidently inferred from the fact that we know it to be the case with our sun, by lesser, non-luminous bodies that have in them their centers of revolution.

Our sun, but one, and far from one of the largest, of countless similar orbs, is the center of light and heat and revolution to eight principal satellites (having in their turn satellites of their own), as well as to an indefinite number of more minute bodies known to us as asteroids and of more erratic bodies called comets. Of the principal satellites of the sun, the third in point of distance from it, and the fourth in point of size, is our earth. It is in constant movement around the sun, and in constant revolution on its own axis, while its satellite, the moon, also revolving on its own axis, is in constant movement around it. The sun itself, revolving too on its own axis, is, with all its attendant bodies, in constant movement around some, probably moving, point in the universe which astronomers have not yet been able to determine.

Thus we find ourselves, on the surface of a globe seemingly fixed, but really in constant motion of so many different kinds that it would be impossible with our present knowledge to make a diagram indicating its real movement through space at any point — a globe large to us, yet only as a grain of sand on the sea-shore compared with the bodies and spaces of the universe of which it is a part. We find ourselves on the surface of this ceaselessly moving globe, as passengers, brought there in utter insensibility, they know not how or whence, might find themselves on the deck of a ship, moving they know not where, and who see in the distance similar ships, whether tenanted or how tenanted they can only infer and guess. The immeasurably great lies beyond us, and about and beneath as the immeasurably small. The microscope reveals infinitudes no less startling to our minds than does the telescope.

Here we are, depth upon depth about us, confined to the bottom of that sea of air which envelops the surface of this moving globe. In it we live and breathe and are constantly immersed. Were our lungs to cease taking in and pumping out this air, or our bodies relieved of its pressure, we should die.

And while all about us, even what seems firmest, is in constant change and motion, so is it with ourselves. These bodies of ours are in reality like the flame of a gas-burner, which has continuous and defined form, but only as the manifestation of changes in a stream of succeeding particles, and which disappears the moment that stream is cut off. What there is real and distinctive in us is that to which we may give a name but cannot explain nor easily define — that which gives to changing matter and passing motion the phase and form of man. But our bodies and our physical powers themselves, like the form and power of the gas-flame, are only passing manifestations of that indestructible matter and eternally pulsing energy of which the universe so far as it is tangible to us is made up. Stop the air that every instant is drawn through our lungs and we cease to live. Stop the food and drink that serve to us the same purpose as coal and water to the steam-engine, and, as certainly, if more slowly, the same result follows.”

(Excerpt from “The Science Of Political Economy” by Henry George)