Then the whole question of human speech rises for him. What did they mean by their words? What could their minds be like? God dragged in and flung about like a counter, in a game of barter—but if you speak real meaning about God it is blasphemy. “Rabbi, Rabbi” to the great man’s face—he turns his back—and his name is smirched for ever by a witty improvisation. Why? Why should men do such things? The magic in the idle tale—ten minutes, and the memory is stained for ever with what not one of them would forget, however he might wish to try to forget. The words are loose and idle, careless, flung out without purpose but to pass the moment—and they live for ever and work mischief. How can they be so light and yet have such power?
Later on he told his friends what he had seen in this matter of words. They come from within, and the speaker’s whole personality, false or true, is behind what he says—the good or bad treasure of his heart. There are no grapes growing on the bramble bush. No wonder that of every idle word men shall give account on the day of Judgement (Matt. 12:36). The idle word—the word unstudied—comes straight from the inmost man, the spontaneous overflow from the spirit within, natural and inevitable, proof of his quality; and they react with the life that brought them forth.
So he grows up—in a real world and among real people. He goes to school with the boys of his own age, and lives at home with mother and brothers and sisters. He reads the Old Testament, and forms a habit of going to the Synagogue (Luke 4:16). All points to a home where religion was real. The first word he learnt to say was probably “Abba”, and it struck the keynote of his thoughts. But he knew the world without as well,—turned on to it early the keen eyes that saw all, and he recognized what he saw. Knowledge of men, but without cynicism, a loving heart still in spite of his freedom from illusions—these are among the gifts that his environment gave him, or failed to take away from him.
THE MAN AND HIS MIND
It is a commonplace with those who take literature seriously that what is to reach the heart must come from the heart; and the maxim may be applied conversely—that what has reached a heart has come from a heart—that what continues to reach the heart, among strange peoples, in distant lands, after long ages, has come from a heart of no common make. The Anglo-Saxon boy is at home in the Odyssey; and when he is a man—if he has the luck to be guided into classical paths—he finds himself in the Aeneid; and from this certain things are deduced about the makers of those poems—that they knew life, looked on it with bright, keen eyes, loved it, and lived it over again as they shaped it into verse.