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zero-knowledge

Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:01:10
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I need not say how gratifying to me that gift was; nor how deeply touching to me the kind words of the Dedication were. Indeed you give far more credit than I am entitled to. Your kindly expressions, however, vividly brought to mind a whole chapter of the pleasant past between us, the exact counterpart of which will, I suppose, never occur to any other two. I feel extremely grateful to you for your affectionate remembrances, and for your plucky avowal of them, for I do not think that at present it is fashionable to look either upon myself or my work with much approval.

On another occasion I was travelling with them from St. Andrews to Edinburgh, and Dr. Boyd, better known as A.K.H.B., was our fellow-voyager. He was a great conversationalist and talked to Lang almost without ceasing. Presently Lang took off the tall hat he was wearing, placed it on his knee, produced paper and pencil, set the paper on the crown of the hat and began to write like a spiritualist automatist, if that is the right word, all the time keeping up a flow of argument and conversation with A.K.H.B. At Edinburgh I saw him post the results, without rereading, to the editor of the Saturday Review. The article appeared in due course without his seeing a proof, and written in his usual clear and beautiful style.

One reason why people have a difficulty in understanding such a life as ours is that they forget original sin. They say, God created the good things of life in order to be used, etc. But we are fallen and corrupt, and things no longer have the effect upon us that God intended in creating them; they were to have raised by their use our minds and hearts to God, and of course it would have been absurd for the unfallen Adam to practise asceticism. But now unfortunately our natures drag us down, and usually the more a man enjoys good things in life the less he thinks of God; and I suppose this is why the rich and riches are so much denounced in the Gospel. Anyhow no one ever applied himself seriously to the love of his Creator without feeling the necessity of separating himself more and more from comfort. Even in a monastery it requires a constant effort to set our affections on the things that are above and not to mind things that are on earth, to attend to the invisible which does not pass away. In fact it cannot be done perfectly till we can say that the world is crucified to us and we to the world, and that with Christ we are nailed to the Cross. (Of course only the Saints ever really do this. Nullus amor sine dolore.”) You are wrong in saying that it is hard to come face to face with God’s will in this world, because God is not far from every one of us. If any man wants wisdom let him ask of Him Who giveth to all abundantly, and he shall receive it. The day after receiving your letter I was looking over the life of my patron St. Justin, it being the eve of his feast; he was a heathen, but possessed by a passion for truth. He spent his youth wandering from one school of philosophy to another, dissatisfied with them all, till one day he met on the seashore an old man who began telling him of the wisdom of the prophets and of Christ, and after such speaking concluded by saying, As for thyself, above all things, pray that the gates of life may be open to you; for these are not things to be discerned, unless God and Christ grant to a man knowledge of them.” I believe that anyone who really desires to know the Truth, and who is resolved to embrace it at all costs, and who prays for light, will come to it and will then first understand what it is to rejoice in hope.”

As for myself, I took the simple vows a short time since; of course I cannot consider myself absolutely fixed till the solemn vows, but I hope I am. I don’t see how anyone can avoid having an intellectual if not a practical contempt for this life if he believes in eternity. I was reading the other day that if a man had been born at the beginning of the world and shed one tear every thousand years, he would now have shed six tears; yet the time will most infallibly come when any and every one will be able to say that at that rate he would have filled the ocean with tears. This seems to me striking and true. The thing is that the happiness or misery of all this future (there is only one alternative) depends on what you love in this life; you must love the Invisible. The beauty of the life we lead here is that it makes this comparatively easy.

The disaster at Isandhlwana occurred on January 22, 1879. A night or two before it happened a lady whom I knew in Pretoria dreamed a dream which she detailed to me on the following day. I am sorry to say that I cannot remember all this dream. What I recall of it is to the effect that she saw a great plain in Zululand on which English troops were camped. Snow began to fall on the plain, snow that was blood-red, till it buried it and the troops. Then the snow melted into rivers of blood.

Yours very truly,

Our subsequent misfortunes were many. We were taken in closer to Ushant than I thought pleasant; the new engines heated; the chief engineer went mad with the strain and, when at length we did reach Port Said, had to be carried ashore raving. I believe that he died not long afterwards. One night this poor fellow, dressed in full uniform, rushed from cabin to cabin, telling the passengers to get up as the ship was sinking!


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