In one of Blackwood’s Tales from the Outposts a man, telling of an arid tract of country in Central Africa, despairs of making one who has not experienced that flaming heat understand anything about it:
‘But how describe the thirst and heat of torrid lands to those who simply turn the tap near at hand to secure an endless cooling supply? How describe the thirst engendered by effort on foot across miles of stark, shadeless forest, heated by a ball of molten fire, to those who life in temperate, well-watered lands of perpetual verdure? The English language, born in a land of cloudy skies frequent showers, forest shades and evergreen fields, with water one every side, lacks, and must lack, terms for precise description of heat, thirst and drought.’
This writing lacks, and must lack the precise touch that is granted only to one who has endured the devouring flame of an anguish that can lick up to the last drop the juice of life. I write from a cooler region than that of many a hospital ward and nursing home. Should it find its way to one who is in the fiery waste, the lack that must be will be recognized. “She has not been here,” the reader will say. “She does not understand.” Knowing this, I have often laid aside the writing as a vain thing and presumptuous.
But He whose words have been as cool water to me in my lesser desert, did in His own flesh endure the extremity of thirst. We cannot say of Him, “He has not been there.” He has been there and He has not forgotten, nor will He ever forget, what it was to be there. We have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Touched with the feeling—could words be more understanding? “Tempted in all points like as we are”—unrecorded experiences of suffering lie there. Able to succour them that are tempted—follow that single line of thought, it is like a track across a desert, and soon we come to deep wells of cool water: Whosoever drinketh of that water shall never thirst. They thirsted not when He led them through the deserts.”