The title is not my own.
Tag Archives: Chesterton
You are precious, priceless, and deeply loved.
You have a heart more vast and luminous than the Grand Canyon, and nothing can alter that.
Unfortunately, having such an awe-inspiring heart makes it easier for people to kick cans or drop litter into it. A heart, by its very nature, will always be a target.
But that is because the people who do that are stupid and refuse to see, and so those people are to be pitied the more for missing out on YOU.
To put it more practically, being so beautifully sensitive means that you are also so painfully sensitive.
The openness to the world that we – having been blessed to be raised in loving, healthy, whole environments – have cultivated in ourselves, leaves us without the protection of cynicism, or even “disillusionment”. Instead, we must see life as it really is. (To paraphrase the Discworld witches, seeing what really is, is an altogether much harder
And that sucks.
Truly. Many of us seem to be struggling right now. I think it is something particular to this generation.
Yes, I know, generation upon generation have suffered, sacrificed, and died before us. But something seems different about this generation.
For one thing, as we come out of that Grand Era of baby boomers, technology, and “reason”, we as a group have been left looking for the “unreasonable”, the mysterious, and wonderful. (Also spelled, for clarification purposes, as “wonder-full”.)
This is my personal theory as to the prevalence of “New Age” isms. After so many years believing in NASA and other modern progresses, people were drawn to New Age thingies simply wanted to be able to see the sacred and beautiful in ordinary things. And actually have something considered sacred and beautiful. And mysterious and wonder-full and awe-full.
“New” Age? Pfft.
Christians have been believing – and acting upon! – that for the past two thousand years. Its called a Sacrament, people!
Which brings me back to original point; we, as young Christian adults, seem to have a strange malady these days.
It is a little bit like ennui, combined with homesickness and compounded by chronic job searching.
I suppose I must admit that it is likely other generations have felt this before. But pray, give me leave to wax hyperbolic about the trials and tribulations close to my heart!
Even Economists – those perilous number wizards- are insisting that this generation is having a ridiculously hard time finding jobs and paying off student loans and generally making ends meet for long enough that we can feel like adults.
And this intensifies just our original trouble.
Because the ennui-homesickness-loss feeling is by now a part of who we are, and it started a long time before most of us even began to look for real jobs. It seems to be part – to paraphrase one of my favorite books, The Blue Sword - a feeling of not belonging, a strong desire to find a place where familiarity and wonder coincide. And part a fear of the discomfort and incongruity that such a place evokes.
Even those of our generation who are not Christian seem to be feeling it: this odd mix existential angst, immediate material insecurity, and the throbbing attraction of anything that promises it has a meaning.
Which is not usually the most comfortable of positions.
And it offers very little in the way of practical happiness.
Whatever you are facing right now, remember that you are a child of God.
And that I think you are AWESOME.
And anyone who thinks differently is being blind.
I will be insulted if you distrust my opinion that much!
(So will God, but I cannot put him on the same level as myself. That would be a stretch, even for an Egotist!)
In any case, beloved, breath deeply, eat healthy, sleep well, and live wonderfully.
P.S. Some more Chesterton for
encouragement summation of our path.
The Men of the East may spell the stars
And times and triumphs mark,
But the Men marked with the Cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.
~ excerpt from the Ballad of the White Horse
Trekking across the wide expanse of land that comprises the western part of the United States of America, there was once one person who first stumbled over the Grand Canyon.
I can only barely imagine how he felt.
I have seen photos, so I was prepared in some degree. But the sheer . . . . largeness staggered me.
We left Santa Fe, with its rich history and perfect weather and pretty scenery and fake adobe buildings.
(Even the McDonald’s was faux adobe. We called it . . . . faudobe.)
And we reached Grand Canyon National Park just before sunset. It had rained a little, so the air in between the south and north rim slightly hazy.
(For a better view of the photos, click on them.)
And it was so huge that I could physically not absorb it all. I would fill my eyes with as much of it as possible, and still see barely a quarter of what was available to be seen. It is should be the definition of “overwhelming”.
The very thought of hiking it me breathless.
And then I realized that we were at 7000 feet above sea level, and it was probably just the thinner atmosphere that impeding my breath.
It should have stunned my with wonder, left me speechless at the Glory of God.
But I am afraid to admit that I only felt . . . numb. It is pretty. Huge. Scary.
However, it is almost alienating in its grandeur.
Chesterton is right when he says in Orthodoxy that when we love something we call it in a diminuative; the small and delicate tugs on out hearts in ways that the awe-inspiring never can.
The photo above is more intriguing than the others, is it not? A photographer will tell you that it is because the frame is formed and the eyed directed by the ceder tree.
I think it is because the ceder there gives the photo the feeling of the immediate, the personal, the tactile, and, yes, the small.
We can gasp in awe at the huge and sweeping, but it is the small and tender that reaches into our own cozy worlds and takes our breath away.
Wondrous works of Nature can never move you like your first sight of your first child.
At least, I imagine that it can’t.
The Grand Canyon, (or, as they call it there, Grand Canyon, sans article,) is beautiful.
But I prefer the quieter, more homelike prettiness of Flagstaff. We only passed through the town, (well, and stopped for gas,) but I fell in love with it. The smaller, gentler beauties are enough for me.
Flagstaff is a city with a small country town feel. It has the attitude and pretty pine and birch forests reminiscent of my favorite place on earth: Northern Michigan. But it also has surrounding mountains!
Could it be that I have found my own personal Heaven on Earth?
I’m sorry to serve these words neat, without any accompanying cheese, cherries or comment, but I am trying to remember every address I’ve had since I was 18. Have a laugh, for it is Thursday.
I wish I were a jellyfish
That cannot fall downstairs
Of all the things I wish to wish
I wish I were a jellyfish
That hasn’t any cares,
And doesn’t even have to wish
‘I wish I were a jellyfish
That cannot fall downstairs.’
This, is an addendum.
My brother #3 should be hired as the creative director onto this blog.
If only we had the funds with which to hire him.
In the midst of last night’s insomnia induced rambling on the joys of homecoming, he wandered downstairs and proceeded to watch me slowly type out the blurry thoughts that tried to form a post.
He patted my arm, and then gently informed me that I needed a more random title.
Something eye-catching, and strange.
Off the top of his head, he suggested, “OMG, there are FISH in my hair!”
Thus, this post is dedicated to him.
And it begs the question:
How much of an effect DOES a title have on the interest drummed up in a article?
I got up early this morning.
5:30AM, to be exact. Which is four and a half hours earlier than I like to awake.
But I had faith that it would be worth the trouble.
Then I boarded a plane and took my place between two slightly odd people engrossed in their iPads. The lady to my right was reading a “supernatural mystery romance”, as she told me. The man to my left was more secretive, but from peering over his lap I deduced that his reading material was either a historical proof of Christ’s existence, or a refutation of a Neo-Platonist interpretation of Scripture.
And I, wedged between them, clutched my worn paperback of Dorothy Sayers and pretended that I was not resisting sleep.
But I held out the hope that such suffering would not go unrewarded.
My hopes were not unfounded:
My family greeted me when I landed.
Thus, today has been filled with wonderful, beautiful moments.
- Incessant hugs
Little sisters are amazing. They not only decorated the house for my homecoming, but they proceeded to clamp onto me and make sure I knew how much I was missed. We spent two and half hours frolicking in the pool before the employed siblings began to trickle home.
- Rain Dancing
No sooner were we dry from the pool, it began to rain. So I and the small ones ran into the driveway where we spun about and chased the steam rising off of the hot black top.
Then I dragged my fifteen year old brother, (brother #3,) out and proceeded to teach him the basics of swing dancing. In the rain. He was very obliging and sweet.
- Amazing Dinner
I always forget that my mother is not simply a great cook: she is a genius at matching the food to the weather. And in the hot, humid, pre-storm evening, we had a spinach, chicken, feta and strawberry salad, fruit salsa, and raisin muffins. With homemade lemon sorbet as dessert.
It was to die for. Should I ever need a “Last Meal”, this would be it.
My beautiful sister Calliope is taking bartending lessons. I had not known this. But this means she must practice almost every night.
Calliope and I sat on the porch after the rain dancing and had a beautiful sisterly rambling. She claims that she is no longer my baby sister. I disagree.
Over dinner the family conversation ranged from Theological implications of the seven days of Creation to the intrinsic value of ice cream. and thunderstorms.
I poked brother #2 until he agreed to take me on a date to the movies.
Then brother #1, the last sibling still distant, (he has to hike the Grand Canyon, the
jerk poor dear,) called and talked with me for thirty minutes with fraternal affection! I used have to work to get him to stay on the phone for two minutes!
It has been a wonderful first day back, full of comfort and adventure.
In fact, it reminds me of a passage from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.
“I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?”
And this was feeling that overwhelms me on my homecoming. May all travels end so gloriously!
In his book Leisure the Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper lays out the founding of what we have come to know as “culture”. It was only when men did not have worry about every meal, when every moment was not spent securing the livelihood of a people, that they could begin to spend time – leisure time – studying.
And, eventually, creating. Art can only happen in a society organized enough to have leisure.
And this is my introductory excuse for having poor taste. When I looked deep, deep into my psyche, I discovered that my instinctive grabs would be;
De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
I am horrified.
I loathe politics. In fact, it might be rated up there with chickens.
In my most cynical moods, I tend to reject all forms of government.
But I do trust education. And maybe if every person in this surviving culture read about politics, it might work!
And the first thing to that a dispossessed society needs in order to stay a culture, is a working organization.
A system of government, if you will.
And it needs people who can think clearly and reasonably about the purpose and organization of government. It need both the information and the wisdom passed down through the ages, what Chesterton called the “democracy of the dead”.
The purpose of government is to serve the people: humans do not exist to serve the government. So yes, there are books that – as I have in the middle of exploring – make us human.
But if the world as we knew it suddenly ended and we had to start anew, it would be important not just to preserve the beauty that was but to rebuild lives, society, and culture.
John Adams, in the throes of organizing the fledgling United States of America, deftly describes this basis of culture in a letter to his wife.
My Dear Portia—
Since my arrival this time, I have driven about Paris more than I did before. The rural scenes around this town are charming. The public walks, gardens, &c., are extremely beautiful . . . I wish I had time to describe these objects to you, in a manner that I should have done twenty-five years ago, but my head is too full of schemes, and my heart of anxiety, to use expressions borrowed from you know whom. To take a walk in the gardens of the palace of the Tuileries, and describe the statues there, all in marble, in which the ancient divinities and heroes are represented with exquisite art, would be a very pleasant amusement and instructive entertainment, improving in history, mythology, poetry, as well as in statuary. Another walk in the gardens of Versailles would be useful and agreeable. But to observe these objects with taste and describe them, so as to be understood, would require more time and thought than I can possibly spare.
It is not indeed the fine arts which our country requires ; the useful, the mechanic arts, are those which we have occasion for in a young country as yet simple and not far advanced in luxury, although perhaps much too far for her age and character. I could fill volumes with descriptions of temples and palaces, paintings, sculptures, tapestry, porcelain, &c., &c., &c., if I could have time ; but I could not do this without neglecting my duty.
The science of government, it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation, ought to take place of, indeed to exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.
Thus concludes the excuse. I would like to have found that my heart of hearts wants to preserve Homer, or Shakespeare, or Dante. I believe that those are the books that teach us best what it mean to be human.
I suppose it is hope that makes grab political training manuals rather first.
Because if the Cylons do come destroy Earth and we must begin anew, I want to reach the point of culture as quickly as possible so that the new Homers, Shakespeares, and Dantes have a chance to create again.
A book that I would bring on my honeymoon. Oye jehmoie! I don’t know if I would bring a book on my honeymoon. At least, not any of the books that changed or formed my life. Those books are so very important that I would either read them with my beloved before we married, or take longer over them than a honeymoon would give (for reading at least). Books of such importance should not be kept waiting.
If I ever get married any and all books on my honeymoon would have to be of the sort that are meant to be read by a fire and under the stars, so that would include …. Patrick McManus books!
Though those are not quite as romantic as I might want. So maybe not…maybe G.K Chesterton’s Fr. Brown mysteries, they are thrilling and enchanting; perfect for snuggling up before a fire! However, there is one drawback to those stories; they are never shallow (not the drawback, I am coming to that…) and some times they are quite deep! That is the draw back! Although it is a requirement to think deep thought and have deep discussions with my new spouse, I think not right before bed (which is when you have fires) because I would be too busy being comfy. So perhaps that would be a better travel-book.
Arra, this is harder than it seems!
Alright, last possibility is fairy-tales! But not just any fairy tales, because I can only listen to so many of Andrew Lang’s stories without going to sleep (though that might not be a bad thing), so they must be special and exciting! That leaves me with Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories! They are witty and charming, just right to right to read and giggle over and rambunctiously enjoy!