The Parable of the Clothes Line

A story might be told by a series of sketches of the clothes of a given family hanging out to dry. A love story might be told in the washes hung out in adjacent gardens. Then there should be three washes and a gentleman nightshirt and a lady nightshirt should be alone. By and by there should be some little nightshirts.

A philosopher might be tempted, on seeing the little nightshirt, to think that the old nightshirts had made it. What we do is much the same, for the body of a baby is not much more made by the two old babies, after whose pattern it has cut itself out, than the little nightshirt is made by the old ones. The thing that makes either the little nightshirts or the little babies is something about which we know nothing whatever at all.

— Samuel Butler’s Notebook