Monday, September 7, 2009

Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"

As usual, that great man continues to astound and delight:

"The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world" (20).

"Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason" (21).

"...the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing" (33-34).

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small but arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democracies object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death" (53).

"Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense" (54).

"I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller" (60).

"Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato or Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before" (161-162).

"Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despise the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin can we at once pity the beggar and distrust the king" (164).

"There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth" (168).

--All quotes from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton (Ignatius Press edition, originally published by John Lane Company, 1908).

1 comment:

Not Prince Hamlet said...

I can think of no figure this side of Jesus who's had a more lasting effect on my sense of faith and vocation. The inside cover of my "Heretics/Orthodoxy" volume is covered in scribbles.

Here's a tip: read Chesterton aloud. Always.