Such pictures: that silver cord, that golden bowl! And why and wherefore?
A thousand ways I turned them in my mind—and always with the sound of the preacher’s voice in my ears—the resonance of the words conveying an indescribable fire of inspiration. Vaguely and yet with certainty I knew the preacher spoke out of some unfathomable emotion which I did not understand—which I did not care to understand. Since then I have thought what those words must have meant to him!
Ah, that tall lank preacher, who thought himself a failure: how long I shall remember him and the words he read and the mournful yet resonant cadences of his voice—and the barren church, and the stony religion! Heaven he gave me, unknowing, while he preached an ineffectual hell.
As we rode home Harriet looked into my face.
“You have enjoyed the service,” she said softly.
“Yes,” I said.
“It was a good sermon,” she said.
“Was it?” I replied.
I have had a new and strange experience—droll in one way, grotesque in another and when everything is said, tragic: at least an adventure. Harriet looks at me accusingly, and I have had to preserve the air of one deeply contrite now for two days (no easy accomplishment for me!), even though in secret I have smiled and pondered.
How our life has been warped by books! We are not contented with realities: we crave conclusions. With what ardour our minds respond to real events with literary deductions. Upon a train of incidents, as unconnected as life itself, we are wont to clap a booky ending. An instinctive desire for completeness animates the human mind (a struggle to circumscribe the infinite). We would like to have life “turn out”—but it doesn’t—it doesn’t. Each event is the beginning of a whole new genealogy of events. In boyhood I remember asking after every story I heard: “What happened next?” for no conclusion ever quite satisfied me—even when the hero died in his own gore. I always knew there was something yet remaining to be told. The only sure conclusion we can reach is this: Life changes. And what is more enthralling to the human mind than this splendid, boundless, coloured mutability!—life in the making? How strange it is, then, that we should be contented to take such small parts of it as we can grasp, and to say, “This is the true explanation.” By such devices we seek to bring infinite existence within our finite egoistic grasp. We solidify and define where solidification means loss of interest; and loss of interest, not years, is old age.
So I have mused since my tramp came in for a moment out of the Mystery (as we all do) and went away again into the Mystery (in our way, too).
There are strange things in this world!
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