Give Me Pause

If I find my position, my consciousness, that of one from home, nay, that of one is some sort of prison; if I find that I can neither rule the world in which I live nor my own thoughts or desires; that I cannot quiet my passions, order my likings, determine my ends, will my growth, forget when I would, or hate where I would; that I am no king over myself; that I cannot supply my own needs, do not even always know which of my seeming needs are to be supplied, and which treated as impostors; if, in a a word, my own being is every way too much for me; if I can neither understand it, be satisfied with it, nor better it—may it not well give me pause—the pause that ends in prayer?

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons

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A Truth, and a Compliment

“IT MAY have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth, and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with a dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.”

~G.K. Chesterton: “What I Saw in America,” Chap. 1—What is America?

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

The First, the One

When I can no more stir my soul to move

And life is but the ashes of a fire;

When I can but remember that my heart

Once used to live and love, long and aspire-

Oh be thou then the first, the one thou art;

Be thou the calling, before all answering love,

And in me wake hope, fear, boundless desire.

— George MacDonald, The Diary of an Old Soul

What Thou Hast Done

“The world looks like a multiplication-table or a mathematical equation which, turn it how you will, balances itself… You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong… A man can not speak but he judges himself… Every secret is told, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty… The thief steals from himself. The swindler swindles himself… Men suffer all their life long, under the foolish superstition that they can be cheated. But it is… Impossible for a man to be cheated by anyone but himself… What will you have? Quoth God; pay for it and take it… Thou shalt be paid exactly for what thou hast done, no more, no less.”

— Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Are Women Human?

“A man once asked me…how I managed in my books to write such natural conversation between men when they were by themselves. Was I, by any chance, a member of a large, mixed family with a lot of male friends? I replied that, on the contrary, I was an only child and had practically never seen or spoken to any men of my own age until I was about twenty-five. ‘Well,’ said the man, ‘I shouldn’t have expected a woman [meaning me] to have been able to make it so convincing.’ I replied that I had coped with this difficult problem by making my men talk, as far as possible, like ordinary human beings. This aspect of the matter seemed to surprise the other speaker; he said no more, but took it away to chew it over. One of these days it may quite likely occur to him that women, as well as men, when left to themselves, talk very much like human beings also.”

“In reaction against the age-old slogan, “woman is the weaker vessel,” or the still more offensive, “woman is a divine creature,” we have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that “a woman is as good as a man,” without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that. What, I feel, we ought to mean is something so obvious that it is apt to escape attention altogether, viz: (…) that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.”

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man–there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman’s nature.”

— Dorothy Sayers

To Know One’s Self

“To know one’s self amid storm and darkness, amid fire and water, amid disease and pain, even during the approach of death, is to be a Christian, for that is how the Master felt in the hour of darkness, because he knew it a fact.”

– George MacDonald, Castle Warlock