Splendid and Strange

“That is what makes life at once so splendid and so strange. We are in the wrong world. When I thought that was the right town, it bored me; when I knew it was wrong, I was happy. So the false optimism, the modern happiness, tires us because it tells us we fit into this world. The true happiness is that we don’t fit. We come from somewhere else. We have lost our way.”

― G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles,

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ADVENIAT REGNUM TUUM

Not that the widespread wings of wrong brood o’er a moaning earth,

Not from the clinging curse of gold, the random lot of birth;

Not from the misery of the weak, the madness of the strong,

Goes upward from our lips the cry, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

Not only from the huts of toil, the dens of sin and shame,

From lordly halls and peaceful homes the cry goes up the same;

Deep in the heart of every man, where’er his life be spent,

There is a noble weariness, a holy discontent.

Where’er to mortal eyes has come, in silence dark and lone,

Some glimmer of the far-off light the world has never known,

Some ghostly echoes from a dream of earth’s triumphal song,

Then as the vision fades we cry, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

Long ages, from the dawn of time, men’s toiling march has wound

Towards the world they ever sought, the world they never found;

Still far before their toiling path the glimmering promise lay,

Still hovered round the struggling race, a dream by night and day.

Mid darkening care and clinging sin they sought their unknown home,

Yet ne’er the perfect glory came—Lord, will it ever come?

The weeding of earth’s garden broad from all its growths of wrong,

When all man’s soul shall be a prayer, and all his life a song.

Aye, though through many a starless night we guard the flaming oil,

Though we have watched a weary watch, and toiled a weary toil,

Though in the midnight wilderness, we wander still forlorn,

Yet bear we in our hearts the proof that God shall send the dawn.

Deep in the tablets of our hearts he writes that yearning still,

The longing that His hand hath wrought shall not his hand fulfil?

Though death shall close upon us all before that hour we see,

The goal of ages yet is there—the good time yet to be:

Therefore, tonight, from varied lips, in every house and home,

Goes up to God the common prayer, “Father, Thy Kingdom come.”

G.K. Chesterton – 17 years old

Cleverness Kills Wisdom

“It has decided, rightly or wrongly, that this specialism and this universalism shall be divided between the sexes. Cleverness shall be left for men and wisdom for women. For cleverness kills wisdom; that is one of the few sad and certain things.”

GK Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World

Curiouser and curiouser… Why does Chesterton make me feel like Alice?

Awake

“MEN are never more awake to the good in the world than when they are furiously awake to the evil in the world. Men never enjoy so much the blazing sun and the rushing wind as when they are out hunting the Devil. On the other hand, there are no people so dreary as philosophical optimists; and men are never so little happy as when they are constantly reassured. Such men have begun by calling the moon as bright as the sun, but they end only by seeing the sun as pallid as the moon. They have made a shameful treaty with shame; and the mark of it is on them. Everything is good, except their own spirits.”

~G.K. Chesterton: “Daily News,” Dec. 16, 1905.

On Seeing Meaning, With Chesterton

Thomas More was a better rationalist, which was why there was nothing in his religion that was merely local, or in that sense merely loyal. More’s mind was like a diamond also in a power like that of cutting glass; of cutting through things that seemed equally transparent, but were at once less solid and less many-sided. For the true consistent heresies generally look very clear indeed; like Calvinism then or Communism now. They sometimes even look very true; they sometimes even are very true, in the limited sense of a truth that is less than the Truth. They are at once more thin and more brittle than the diamond. For a heresy is not often a mere lie; as Thomas More himself said, “Never was there a heretic that spoke all false.” A heresy is a truth that hides all the other truths. A mind like More’s was full of light like a house made of windows; but the windows looked out on all sides and in all directions. We might say that, as the jewel has many facets, so the man had many faces; only none of them were masks.

GK Chesterton, ST. THOMAS MORE

On Mr. Chesterton’s Destructive Criticism

“WE are in some danger today of underestimating our debt to Mr. Chesterton, and of forgetting the impact which his books made on the minds of young men who were infected by the fallacy of Victorian rationalism. In those distant days many people still cherished the futile hope of reconstructing a positive ethical system on the basis of mere negation. Mr. Chesterton’s destructive criticism of the Huxleys, Bradlaughs and Haeckels of our youth was as devastating as it was brilliant, and its value would be more widely appreciated today if it had not been so completely effective.”

~Arnold Lunn: “Now I See”

The Dry One

It is the paradox of most Parliaments that they appeal for a majority and give power to a minority. When a majority becomes a machinery, the minority becomes the man that works the machine. And the minority becomes very much more powerful than it would if there were no Parliament at all. The whole thing works by a curious trick of topsy-turvydom, recalling the tale about the girl who jumped into the water to find out which of her lovers would rescue her. They all jumped in except one; and she adopted the rather cynical course of marrying the dry one.

In this war the majority of men have really proved themselves heroes; they have really, by a common impulse, plunged into the sea of slaughter and catastrophe, and the politician has been left on deck, as the comparatively dry one, with an undisputed claim to steer the ship. But even in normal times the majority of men plunge with no little pluck into the sea of troubles; and the real difficulty of democracy is not that voters are unworthy, but that their vote is generally the least worthy thing about them. When they are not defending their country they are earning their living, or educating their children, or falling in love, or finding salvation, or doing some other thing more interesting than politics, so that the latter is left for politicians as the only people too dull to be bored by it.

Hence we find everywhere very unpopular persons powerful in politics when they are quite impotent in every other department. A man like Mr MacDonald or Mr Snowden, amid the most acute feelings against their anti-national philosophy, could get a Parliamentary seat and a Governmental post much more easily than they could get any other form of public approval — much more easily than they could get a mob to rise for them, or a subscription raised for them, or a popular song sung in their honour.

— Illustrated London News, 30 June 1917.