Out of the Abundance of the Heart …

Jacek Chabraszewski/Fotolia

Out of the Abundance of the Heart …

The debasing of language is a sure sign of a civilization in decline.

Once, education was built on a foundation of words. Now it’s more likely to be foisted off on the student through electronically driven video imagery. The results do not auger well for our national survival.

When our education system was underpinned by the study of language and the reading of great books espousing great ideas, the learning of a broad, colorful and precise vocabulary seemed automatic. The results were reflected in our ability to communicate clearly in speech and writing. Conversation was stimulating.

I have never regretted being educated within a British Commonwealth country whose education system during the immediate postwar years was still based substantially on the development of a rich vocabulary through reading great books and studying language.

Sir Winston Churchill’s speeches and manner of writing offer an excellent study in the use of the English language. He knew how to parse a paragraph—keeping the thread of thought flowing with a rise and fall of cadence that was psalm-like.

British historian Paul Johnson is another. His choice of descriptive words is impeccable, and, being a real wit, he usually slips one or two words into his brilliant essays that move you to reach for the dictionary and add to your own vocabulary.

The best of the books on effective management confirm that a good command of language with an extensive vocabulary is something that successful corporate executives inevitably possess.

Have you noticed that really good communicators—the most effective conversationalists and orators within society—seldom if ever stoop to using base language?

Base or bad language is used by some people in an attempt to either shock, provoke or otherwise “impress” another individual. That such language should never be resorted to by a true servant of God ought to be taken for granted.

As Jesus Christ declared, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Thus a tongue that mouths base or bad language simply reveals a mind that is not in true synchronization with that of Christ (Philippians 2:5).

The Proverbs tell us that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

The Apostle Paul gave us a wonderful admonition on how to engender clean, uplifting speech: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

The King James Bible is an excellent example of beautifully rendered language. It is an exemplar of proper syntax and parsing, coming from an age four centuries before the fashion for minimalist communication in short staccato sentences that possess few descriptive adjectives and adverbs, such as the genre of today.

The rhythmic sound and rise and fall of the cadence of beautifully constructed communication is missing from most of today’s orators and public speakers.

Churchill, perhaps the greatest orator of the 20th century, was so often able to turn a hostile parliament around to his way of thinking by the presentation of a masterful speech. He was an avid reader of the classics and great books.

Reading wide, developing a good understanding of language, is a great source of continuing education. This aspect of education is sadly lacking in many national curricula today. The result is a massive loss in ability to communicate clearly and effectively in our native tongue.

My earliest critics when I began to take a higher profile in speaking and writing were Americans. A number claimed that I used words they did not know the meaning of. Yet all I was doing was using the vocabulary that was part of a good education in my home country and most of the rest of the British Commonwealth! It soon became obvious that the quality of language generally in use in the U.S. was quite below par compared to the rest of the English-speaking world.

It is clearly demonstrated that children to whom parents read regularly during infancy, and who are encouraged to read widely throughout their years of schooling, are far better conversationalists, readers and writers by the time they reach adulthood. They thus emerge from their years of education far better prepared to obtain work in a highly competitive marketplace than those who are not so encouraged.

The other thing that reading widely imparts is a lucid, vibrant, stimulated imagination!

Imagination is one of the most underrated of gifts that God has given us. It’s by no mere accident that the great age of discovery that occurred at the time of the rise of the British peoples to their peak of greatness coincided with the rapid expansion of the availability and the distribution of books.

Reading was a prime pastime of the British folk during the time of empire. They were granted access not only to the classics during their rise to prominence, commencing in the 18th century, but increasingly to the great works of contemporary British authors. The sheer expansion of British inventiveness during the time of the British Empire was phenomenal. That this flowed from greatly stimulated imaginations is a given. It was a time of great ideas, and great ideas are gestated in our God-given power to imagine them first.

We can draw a real contrast between that time of British greatness when reading flourished, imagination was vivid, communication both graceful and truly effective, and its diminishing during the time of the decline of Britain, and the ongoing subsequent decline in quality generally of what Churchill called “the Anglo-Saxon race.”

When electronic gadgetry does our thinking, and worse, our visualization for us via video to the point of stifling the power of mental visualization, we either greatly limit or lose a powerful component of our human mind—the power to IMAGINE!

When we add to this a dumbed-down form of “communication” in abbreviated forms via texting, we compound the problem that we find increasingly extant in a non-reading population: the reduced capacity to effectively communicate with each other in a truly mature and civilized way. That is a great sign of a society in decay.

One of the greatest of tools that we can possess in our armory to fight against the dumbing down of Anglo-Saxon society is the ability to ensure that each and every word that leaves our lips becomes as “apples of gold in pictures of silver.”