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    Gk chesterton Gk chesterton Document Transcript

    • rasayanagems Just another WordPress.com siteGK Chesterton Search Home GK Chesterton Kahlil Gibran Marcus Aurelius Mark Tw ain Ogden Nash Oscar W ilde Somerset Maugham Subscribe rasayanagems syndicates its w eblog posts and Comments using a technology called RSS (Real Simple Syndication). YouTHE full value of this life can only be got by fighting; the violent take it can use a service likebystorm. And if we have accepted everything we have missed something Bloglines to get notified w hen there are new posts to this— war. This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable w eblog.truce. ArchivesTHE old religionists tortured men physically for a moral truth. The new February 2011realists torture men morally for a physical truth.’TremendousTrifles.’ CategoriesOUR wisdom, whether expressed in private or public, belongs to the Uncategorized (1)world, but our folly belongs to those we love. BlogrollOUR fathers were large and healthy enough to make a thing humane, and Discussnot worry about whether it was hygienic. They were big enough to get Get Inspiredinto small rooms. Get Polling Get SupportTHE rare strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross obvious thing is to Learn WordPress.commiss it. Chaos is dull; because in chaos a train might go anywhere — to WordPress PlanetBaker Street or Bagdad. But man is a magician and his whole magic is in WordPress.com New sthis that he does say ‘Victoria,’ and lo! it is Victoria. MetaTHE personal is not a mere figure for the impersonal: rather the Registerimpersonal is a clumsy term for something more personal than common Log inpersonality. God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of Valid XHTMLGod. XFN WordPress.comTHE world is not to be justified as it is justified by the mechanicaloptimists;it is not to be justified as the best of all possible worlds. . . Itsmerit isprecisely that none of us could have conceived such a thing; thatwe should have rejected the bare idea of it as miracle and unreason. It isthe best of allimpossible worlds.A CRIME is like any other work of art. Don’t look surprised; crimes are byno means the only works of art that come from an infernal workshop. Butevery work of art, divine or diabolic, has one indispensable mark — Imean that the centre of it is simple, however the entourage may becomplicated.A TURKEY is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels.In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, He has partlytold us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkeymeans. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, youwill find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased thandiminished.CHRIST did not love humanity, He never said He loved humanity; Heloved men.Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • loving a gigantic centipede. And the reason that the Tolstoians can evenendure to think of an equally distributed love is that their love ofhumanity is a logical love, a love into which they are coerced by theirown theories, a love which would be an insult to a tom-cat.’WITH all the multiplicity of knowledge there is one thing happily that noman knows: whether the world is old or young.YOU cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it.Introductionto ‘Nicholas Nickleby.’A MAN may look into the eyes of his lady-love to see that they arebeautiful. But no normal lady will allow that young man to look into hereyes to see whether they are beautiful. The same variety andidiosyncrasy has been generally observed in gods. Praise them or leavethem alone; but do not look for them unless you know they are there. Donot look for them unless you want them.‘All Things Considered.’A GREAT man of letters or any great artist is symbolic without knowingit. The things he describes are types because they are truths.Shakespeare may or may not have ever put it to himself that Richard theSecond was a philosophical symbol; but all good criticism mustnecessarily see him so. It may be a reasonable question whether an artistshould be allegorical. There can be no doubt among sane men that acritic should be allegorical.Introduction to ‘Great Expectations.’SERIOUSNESS is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much moresensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice, It is really a naturaltrend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thingto do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a goodjoke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is aleap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force ofgravity.‘Orthodoxy.’EVERY detail points to something, certainly, but generally to the wrongthing. Facts point in all directions, it seems to me, like the thousands oftwigs on a tree. It is only the life of the tree that has unity and goes up —only the green blood that springs, like a fountain, at the stars.‘The Club of Queer Trades.’WE talk of art as something artificial in comparison with life. But Isometimes fancy that the very highest art is more real than life itself. Atleast this is true : that in proportion as passions become real theybecome poetical; the lover is always trying to be the poet. All real energyis an attempt at harmony and a high swing of rhythm; and if we were onlyreal enough we should all talk in rhyme.ANYONE could easily excuse the ill-humour of the poor. But greatmasses of the poor have not even any ill-humour to be excused. Theircheeriness is startling enough to be the foundation of a miracle play; andcertainly is startling enough to be the foundation of a romance.Introduction to’Christmas Stories.’MODERN women defend their office with all the fierceness ofdomesticity. They fight for desk and typewriter as for hearth and home,and develop a sort of wolfish wifehood on behalf of the invisible head ofthe firm. That is why they do office work so well and that is why theyought not to do it.‘What’s Wrong with the World.’SOME of the most frantic lies on the face of life are told with modesty andrestraint; for the simple reason that only modesty and restraint will savethem.IN a world without humour, the only thing to do is to eat. And howperfect an exception! How can these people strike dignified attitudes,and pretend that things matter, when the total ludicrousness of life isproved by the very method by which it is supported? A man strikes thelyre, and says, ‘Life is real, life is earnest,’ and then goes into a room andstuffs alien substances into a hole in his head.TRUTH must necessarily be stranger than fiction; for fiction is the converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.OUR modern mystics make a mistake when they wear long hair or looseties to attract the spirits. The elves and the old gods when they revisit theearth really go straight for a dull top-hat. For it means simplicity, whichthe gods love.THE only way of catching a train I have ever discovered is to miss thetrain before.BRAVE men are all vertebrates: they have their softness on the surfaceand their toughness in the middle.THE teetotaller has chosen a most unfortunate phrase for the drunkardwhen he says that the drunkard is making a beast of himself. The manwho drinks ordinarily makes nothing but an ordinary man of himself. Theman who drinks excessively makes a devil of himself. But nothingconnected with a human and artistic thing like wine can bring one nearerto the brute life of Nature. The only man who is, in the exact and literalsense of the words, making a beast of himself is the teetotaller.AN error is more menacing than a crime, for an error begets crimes. . . Afree lover is worse than a profligate. For a profligate is serious andreckless even in his shortest love; while a free lover is cautious andirresponsible even in his longest devotion.PESSIMISM says that life is so short that it gives nobody a chance;religion says that life is so short that it gives everybody his final chance.WAR is a dreadful thing; but it does prove two points sharply andunanswerably — numbers and an unnatural valour. One does discoverthe two urgent matters; how many rebels there are alive, and how manyare ready to be dead.IT is a sufficient proof that we are not an essentially democratic statethat we are always wondering what we shall do with the poor. If we weredemocrats, we should be wondering what the poor will do with us. Withus the governing class is always saying to itself, ‘What laws shall wemake?’ In a purely democratic state it would be always saying, ‘Whatlaws can we obey?’A MAN’S good work is effected by doing what he does: a woman’s bybeing what she is.PHILOSOPHY is not the concern of those who pass through Divinity andGreats, but of those who pass through birth and death. Nearly all themore awful and abstruse statements can be put in words of one syllable,from ‘A child is born’ to ‘A soul is damned.’ If the ordinary man may notdiscuss existence, why should he be asked to conduct it? ‘GeorgeBernard Shaw.’KEEPING to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing onewoman. ‘Orthodoxy.’ONE Sun is splendid: six Suns would be only vulgar. One Tower of Giottois sublime: a row of Towers of Giotto would be only like a row of whiteposts. The poetry of art is in beholding the single tower; the poetry ofnature, in seeing the single tree; the poetry of love, in following the singlewoman; the poetry of religion, in worshipping the singlestar.‘Tremendous Trifles.’THE full value of this life can only be got by fighting; the violent take it bystorm. And if we have accepted everything we have missed something —war. This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.HIS soul will never starve for exploits or excitements who is wise enoughto be made a fool of. He will make himself happy in the traps that havebeen laid for him; he will roll in their nets and sleep. All doors will flyopen to him who has a mildness more defiant than mere courage. Thewhole is unerringly expressed in one fortunate phrase — he will bealways ‘taken in.’ To be taken in everywhere is to see the inside ofeverything. It is the hospitality of circumstance. With torches andtrumpets, like a guest, the greenhorn is taken in by Life. And the scepticis cast out by it.‘Charles Dickens.’YOU cannot admire will in general, because the essence of will is that it is converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • particular. A brilliant anarchist like Mr. John Davidson felt an irritationagainst ordinary morality, and therefore he invokes will — will toanything. He only wants humanity to want something. But humanitydoes want something. It wants ordinary morality. He rebels against thelaw and tells us to will something or anything. But we have willedsomething. We have willed the law against which he rebels.’Orthodoxy.’HOW high the sea of human happiness rose in the Middle Ages, we nowonly know by the colossal walls that they built to keep it in bounds. Howlow human happiness sank in the twentieth century, our children willonly know by these extraordinary modern books, which tell people to becheerful and that life is not so bad after all. Humanity never producesoptimists till it has ceased to produce happy men. It is strange to beobliged to impose a holiday like a fast, and to drive men to a banquetwith spears.‘George Bernard Shaw.’IF a god does come upon the earth, he will descend at the sight of thebrave. Our prostrations and litanies are of no avail our new moons andsabbaths are an abomination. The great man will come when all of us arefeeling great, not when all of us are feeling small. He will ride in at somesplendid moment when we all feel that we could do withouthim.’Charles Dickens.’THERE is no such thing as fighting on the winning side: one fights to findout which is the winning side.IF Americans can be divorced for ‘incompatibility of temper,’ I cannotconceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happymarriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is tofight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomesunquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.OF a sane man there is only one safe delinition: he is a man who can havetragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.THE wise man will follow a star, low and large and fierce in the heavens,but the nearer he comes to it the smaller and smaller it will grow, till hefinds it the humble lantern over some little inn or stable. Not till we knowthe high things shall we know how lovely they are.IT is a great mistake to suppose that love unites and unifies men. Lovediversifies them, because love is directed towards individuality. Thething that really unites men and makes them like to each other is hatred.The more modern nations detest each other the more meekly they followeach other; for all competition is in its nature only a furious plagiarism.RED is the most joyful and dreadful thing in the physical universe; it isthe fiercest note, it is the highest light, it is the place where the walls ofthis world of ours wear thinnest and something beyond burns through. Itglows in the blood which sustains and in the fire which destroys us, in theroses of our romance and in the awful cup of our religion. It stands for allpassionate happiness, as in faith or in first love.OF all the tests by which the good citizen and strong reformer can bedistinguished from the vague faddist or the inhuman sceptic, I know nobetter test than this — that the unreal reformer sees in front of him onecertain future, the future of his fad; while the real reformer sees beforehim ten or twenty futures among which his country must choose, andmay in some dreadful hour choose the wrong one. The true patriot isalways doubtful of victory; because he knows that he is dealing with aliving thing; a thing with free will. To be certain of free will is to beuncertain of success.Introduction to ‘American Notes.’IN this world of ours we do not so much go on and discover small things:rather we go on and discover big things. It is the detail that we see first; itis the design that we only see very slowly, and some men die neverhaving seen it at all. We see certain squadrons in certain uniforms galloppast; we take an arbitrary fancy to this or that colour, to this or thatplume. But it often takes us a long time to realize what the fight is aboutor even who is fighting whom. So in the modern intellectual world we cansee flags of many colours, deeds of manifold interest the one thing we converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • cannot see is the map. We cannot see the simplified statement which tellswhat is the origin of all the trouble.MEN talk of philosophy and theology as if they were somethingspecialistic and arid and academic. But philosophy and theology are notonly the only democratic things, they are democratic to the point ofbeing vulgar, to the point, I was going to say, of being rowdy. They aloneadmit all matters they alone lie open to all attacks.There is no detail frombuttons to kangaroos that does not enter into the gayconfusion ofphilosophy. There is no fact of life, from the death of a donkey to theGeneral Post Office, which has not its place to dance and sing in, in theglorious carnival of theology.THE educated classes have adopted a hideous and heathen custom ofconsidering death as too dreadful to talk about, and letting it remain asecret for each person, like some private malformation. The poor, on thecontrary, make a great gossip and display about bereavement; and theyare right. They have hold of a truth of psychology which is at the back ofall the funeral customs of the children of men. The way to lessen sorrowis to make a lot of it. The way to endure a painful crisis is to insist verymuch that it is a crisis; to permit people who must feel sad at least to feelimportant. In this the poor are simply the priests of the universalcivilization; and in their stuffy feasts and solemn chattering there is thesmell of the baked meats of Hamlet and the dust and echo of the funeralgames of Patroclus.A MAN ought to eat because he has a good appetite to satisfy, andemphatically not because he has a large frame to sustain. A man ought totake exercise not because he is too fat, but because he loves foils orhorses or high mountains, and loves them for their own sake. And a manought to marry because he has fallen in love, and emphatically notbecause the world requires to be populated. The food will reallyrenovate his tissues as long as he is not thinking about his tissues. Theexercise will really get him into training so long as he is thinking aboutsomething else. And the marriage will really stand some chance ofproducing a generous-blooded generation if it had its origin in its ownnatural and generous excitement. It is the first law of health that ournecessities should not be accepted as necessities they should beaccepted as luxuries. Let us, then, be careful about the small things, suchas a scratch or a slight illness, or anything that can be managed withcare. But in the name of all sanity, let us be careless about the importantthings, such as marriage, or the fountain of our very life will fail.‘Heretics.’EVERYTHING is military in the sense that everything depends uponobedience. There is no perfectly epicurean corner; there is no perfectlyirresponsible place. Everywhere men have made the way for us withsweat and submission. We may fling ourselves into a hammock in a fit ofdivine carelessness. But we are glad that the net-maker did not make thenet in a fit of divine carelessness. We may jump upon a child’s rocking-horse for a joke. But we are glad that the carpenter did not leave the legsof it unglued for a joke.‘Heretics.’IN these days we are accused of attacking science because we want it tobe scientific. Surely there is not any undue disrespect to our doctor insaying that he is our doctor, not our priest or our wife or ourself. It is notthe business of the doctor to say that we must go to a watering-place; it ishis affair to say that certain results of health will follow if we do go to awatering-place. After that, obviously, it is for us to judge. Physicalscience is like simple addition; it is either infallible or it is false. To mixscience up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lostall its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value. I wantmy private physician to tell me whether this or that food will kill me. It isfor my private philosopher to tell me whether I ought to be killed.‘All Things Considered.’IT is currently said that hope goes with youth and lends to youth itswings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man,and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is pre-eminently the period inwhich a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period inwhich a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of theworld. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to themiddle-aged. God has kept that good wine until now.DO you see this lantern? Do you see the cross carved on it and the flameinside? You did not make it. You did not light it. Better men than you,men who could believe and obey, twisted the entrails of iron, andpreserved the legend of fire. There is not a street you walk on, there isnot a thread you wear, that was not made as this lantern was, by denyingyour philosophy of dirt and rats. You can make nothing. You can onlydestroy. You will destroy mankind; you will destroy the world. Let thatsuffice you. Yet this one old Christian lantern you shall now destroy. Itshall go where your empire of apes will never have the wit to find it.THIEVES respect property. They merely wish the property to becometheir property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophersdislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea ofpersonal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not gothrough the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy.But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respecthuman life; they merely wish to attain a greater fullness of human life inthemselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. Butphilosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people’s.THE average man votes below himself; he votes with half a mind or ahundredth part of one. A man ought to vote with the whole of himself, ashe worships or gets married. A man ought to vote with his head andheart, his soul and stomach, his eye for faces and his ear for music; also(when sufficiently provoked) with his hands and feet. If he has ever seena fine sunset, the crimson colour of it should creep into his vote. If he hasever heard splendid songs, they should be in his ears when he makes themystical cross. But as it is, the difficulty with English democracy at allelections is that it is something less than itself. The question is not somuch whether only a minority of the electorate votes. The point is thatonly a minority of the voter votes.IT is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modernexistence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. Weannounce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We donot announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off ascaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, asindicating that the moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is stillabroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding isreally more sensational; and it is also some thousand times morecommon. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insistupon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put ontheir posters ‘Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,’ or ‘Mr. Jones of Worthing, NotDead Yet.’ They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. Theycannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages thatare not dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is ofnecessity fallacious they can only represent what is unusual. Howeverdemocratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority. ‘OF all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these peoplecall the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is theworship of the god within. Anyone who knows anybody knows how itwould work; anyone who knows anyone from the Higher Thought Centreknows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the god within himturns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jonesworship the sun or moon — anything rather than the Inner Light; letJones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but notthe god within. Christianity came into the world, firstly, in order toassert with violence that a man had not only to look inward, hut to lookoutwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divinecompany and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was thata man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognizedan outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army withbanners.WHATEVER makes men feel old is mean — an empire or a skin-flint shop.Whatever makes men feel young is great — a great war or a love-story.And in the darkest of the books of God there is written a truth that is alsoa riddle. It is of the new things that men tire — of fashions and proposalsand improvements and change. It is the old things that startle and converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • intoxicate. It is the old things that are young. There is no sceptic whodoes not feel that men have doubted before. There is no rich and fickleman who does not feel that all his novelties are ancient. There is noworshipper of change who does not feel upon his neck the vast weight ofthe weariness of the universe. But we who do the old things are fed byNature with a perpetual infancy. No man who is in love thinks thatanyone has been in love before. No woman who has a child thinks therehave been such things as children. To people that fight for their own cityare haunted with the burden of the broken empires.‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill.SOLDIERS have many faults, but they have one redeeming merit: theyare never worshippers of Force. Soldiers more than any other men aretaught severely and systematically that might is not right. The fact isobvious: the might is in the hundred men who obey. The right (or what isheld to be right) is in the one man who commands them. They learn toobey symbols, arbitrary things, stripes on an arm, buttons on a coat, atitle, a flag. These may be artificial things; they may be unreasonablethings; they may, if you will, be wicked things: but they are not weakthings. They are not Force, and they do not look like Force. They areparts of an idea, of the idea of discipline; if you will, of the idea oftyranny; but still an idea. No soldier could possibly say that his ownbayonets were his authority. No soldier could possibly say that he camein the name of his own bayonets. It would be as absurd as if a postmansaid that he came inside his bag. I do not, as I have said, underrate theevils that really do arise from militarism and the military ethic. It tendsto give people wooden faces and sometimes wooden heads. It tends,moreover (both through its specialization and through its constantobedience), to a certain loss of real independence and strength ofcharacter. This has almost always been found when people made themistake of turning the soldier into a statesman, under the mistakenimpression that be was a strong man. The Duke of Wellington, forinstance, was a strong soldier and therefore a weak statesman. But thesoldier is always, by the nature of things, loyal to something. And as longas one is loyal to something one can never be a worshipper of mereforce. For mere force, violence in the abstract, is the enemy of anythingwe love. To love anything is to see it at once under lowering skies ofdanger. Loyalty implies loyalty in misfortune; and when a soldier hasaccepted any nation’s uniform he has already accepted its defeat.‘AllThings Considered.’DISTRIBUTE the dignified people and the capable people and the highlybusinesslike people among all the situations which their ambition ortheir innate corruption may demand, but keep close to your heart, keepdeep in your inner councils the absurd people; let the clever peoplepretend to govern you, let the unimpeachable people pretend to adviseyou, but let the fools alone influence you; let the laughable people whosefaults you see and understand be the only people who are really insideyour life, who really come near you or accompany you on your lonelymarch towards the last impossibility.Introduction to ‘David Copperfield.’FAIRY-TALES do not give a child his first idea of bogy. What fairy-talesgive the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogy. Thebaby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination.What the fairy-tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.Exactly what the fairy-tale does is this: it accustoms him by a series ofclear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors have a limit, thatthese shapeless enemies have enemies, that these infinite enemies of manhave enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in theuniverse more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.When I was a child I have stared at the darkness until the whole blackbulk of it turned into one negro giant taller than heaven. If there was onestar in the sky it only made him a Cyclops. But fairy-tales restored mymental health. For next day I read an authentic account of how a negrogiant with one eye, of quite equal dimensions, had been baffled by a littleboy like myself (of similar inexperience and even lower social status) bymeans of a sword, some bad riddles, and a brave heart.SUPPOSE that a great commotion arises in the street about something —let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, isapproached on the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of theSchoolmen, ‘Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. IfLight be in itself good — – — ‘ At this point he is somewhat excusablyknocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, thelamppost is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating eachother on their unmedieval practicality. But as things go on they do notwork out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post downbecause they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted oldiron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil.Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some actedbecause they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because theywanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no manknowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monkwas right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy ofLight. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp we mustnow discuss in the dark.‘Heretics.’I HAVE often been haunted with a fancy that the creeds of men might beparalleled and represented in their beverages. Wine might stand forgenuine Catholicism, and ale for genuine Protestantism; for these at leastare real religions with comfort and strength in them. Clean coldAgnosticism would be clean cold water — an excellent thing if you canget it. Most modern ethical and idealistic movements might be wellrepresented by soda-water — which is a fuss about nothing. Mr. BernardShaw’s philosophy is exactly like black coffee — it awakens, but it doesnot really inspire. Modern hygienic materialism is very like cocoa; itwould be impossible to express one’s contempt for it in stronger termsthan that. Sometimes one may come across something that may honestlybe compared to milk, an ancient and heathen mildness, an earthly yetsustaining mercy — the milk of human kindness. You can find it in a fewpagan poets and a few old fables; but it is everywhere dying out.‘William Blake.’COURAGE is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desiretolive taking the form of a readiness to die. This paradox is the wholeprinciple of courage even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A mancut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. Hecan only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch ofit. A soldier, surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs tocombine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness aboutdying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, andwill not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be asuicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furiousindifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death likewine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddlewith adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so.GEORGE MEREDITH DIEDTHE trees thinned and fell away from each other, and I came out intodeep grass and a road. I remember being surprised that the evening wasso far advanced; I had a fancy that this valley had a sunset all to itself. Iwent along that road according to directions that had been given me, andpassed the gateway in a slight paling, beyond which the wood changedonly faintly to a garden. It was as if the curious courtesy and fineness ofthat character I was to meet went out from him upon the valley; for I felton all these things the finger of that quality which the old English called‘faerie’; it is the quality which those can never understand who think ofthe past as merely brutal: it is an ancient elegance such as there is intrees. I went through the garden and saw an old man sitting by a table,looking smallish in his big chair. He was already an invalid, and his hairand beard were both white; not like snow, for snow is cold and heavy, butlike something feathery, or even fierce; rather they were white like whitethistledown. I came up quite close to him; he looked at me as he put outhis frail hand, and I saw of a sudden that his eyes were startlingly young.He was the one great man of the old world whom I have met who was nota mere statue over his own grave. He was deaf and he talked like atorrent. He did not talk about the books he had written; he was far toomuch alive for that. He talked about the books he had not written. Heunrolled a purple bundle of romances which he had never had time tosell. He asked me to write one of the stories for him, as he would have converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • asked the milkman, if he had been talking to the milkman. It was asplendid and frantic story, a sort of astronomical farce. It was all about aman who was rushing up to the Royal Society with the only possible wayof avoiding an earth-destroying comet; and it showed how, even on thishuge errand, the man was tripped up at every other minute by his ownweaknesses and vanities; how he lost a train by trifling or was put in gaolfor brawling. That is only one of them; there were ten or twenty more.Another, I dimly remember, was a version of the fall of Parnell; the ideathat a quite honest man might be secret from a pure love of secrecy, ofsolitary self-control. I went out of that garden with a blurred sensation ofthe million possibilities of creative literature. The feeling increased asmy way fell back into the wood; for a wood is a palace with a millioncorridors that cross each other everywhere. I really had the feeling thatI had seen the creative quality; which is supernatural. I had seen whatVirgil calls the Old Man of the Forest: I had seen an elf. The treesthronged behind my path; I have never seen him again; and now I shallnot see him, because he died last Tuesday.‘Tremendous Trifles.’HIS soul will never starve for exploits or excitements who is wise enoughto be made a fool of. He will make himself happy in the traps that havebeen laid for him; he will roll in their nets and sleep. All doors will flyopen to him who has a mildness more defiant than mere courage. Thewhole is unerringly expressed in one fortunate phrase — he will bealways ‘taken in.’ To be taken in everywhere is to see the inside ofeverything. It is the hospitality of circumstance. With torches andtrumpets, like a guest, the greenhorn is taken in by Life. And the scepticis cast out by it.‘Charles Dickens.’SUPPOSE that a great commotion arises in the street about something —let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pulldown. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, isapproached on the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of theSchoolmen, ‘Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. IfLight be in itself good — –At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the peoplemake a rush for the lamp-post, the lamppost is down in ten minutes, andthey go about congratulating each other on their unmedievalpracticality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Somepeople have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electriclight; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanteddarkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of alamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smashmunicipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something.And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So,gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, therecomes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that alldepends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might havediscussed under the gas-lamp we must now discuss in the dark.‘Heretics.’Excerpts from G.K.Chesterton’s essay on “Maniac”Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world. Once Iremember walking with a prosperous Publisher, who made a remark Ihad heard before: “That man will get on. He believes in himself “.I said to him: “Shall I tell you where the men are, who believe most inthemselves? The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunaticasylums. That drunken poet from whom you would not take a drearytragedy, he believed in himself. That elderly minister with an epic fromwhom you were hiding in a backroom, he believed in himself. If youconsulted your business experience instead of your individualisticphilosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of thecommonest signs of a rotter.Actors, who can’t act, believe in themselves; and debtors who won’t pay.It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail because hebelieves in himself.’Complete Self-Confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-Confidence is converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • a weakness. It is true that some speak lightly and loosely of insanity as initself attractive. Oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do notstrike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much moreexciting time. This is also why old fairy tales endure forever.It makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that arestartling. They are startling because he is normal. You can make a storyout of a hero among dragons; but not of a dragon among dragons. Thefairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world.There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mysticalimagination, is dangerous to man’s mental balance. Facts and historyutterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been notonly sane, but also very business-like. Imagination does not breedinsanity. Exactly what breeds insanity is REASON. Poets do not go mad,CHESS PLAYERS do. Mathematicians go mad and cashiers. But creativeartists, very seldom.I am not, in any sense, attacking logic. I only say that this danger lies inlogic, not in imagination.Moreover it is worthy of remark that when a poet really was morbid, itwas commonly because he had some weak spot of rationality on hisbrain. Poe, for instance, was morbid. Not because he was poetical butbecause he was especially analytical. Even chess was too poetical forhim; he disliked chess because it was full of knights and castles, like apoem. Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: The only great Englishpoet went mad. COWPER. And he was definitely driven mad by logic.Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine. Everywhere we see thatmen do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets.The general fact is simple:POETRY IS SANE BECAUSE IT FLOATS EASILY IN AN INFINITESEA.REASON SEEKS TO CROSS THE INFINITE SEA, AND SO MAKE ITFINITE.The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise. Tounderstand everything is a strain. The poet only desires exaltation andexpansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get hishead into the heaven. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens intohis head. And it is head that splits.If the Madman could for an instant become careless, he would becomesane. Everyone who has had the misfortune to talk with people on theedge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is ahorrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a mapmore elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremelypossible that you will get the worst of it. He is not hampered by a sense ofhumour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He isthe more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed the commonphrase for insanity is in this respect, a misleading one. The madman isnot the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who haslost everything except his reason.The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete and often in apurely rational sense, satisfactory. Or to speak more strictly, the insaneexplanation if not conclusive is at least unanswerable. If a man says thatmen have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except bysaying that all the men deny that they are conspirators, which is whatexactly the conspirators will do. His explanation covers the facts asmuch as yours. Or if a man says he is the rightful King of England, it is nocomplete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad. For ifhe were the King of England that might be the wisest thing for theauthorities to do. Or if a man says he is Jesus Christ .It is no answer to tellhim that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ’s.Nevertheless he is wrong. But if he attempted to trace his error in exactterms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps thenearest we can get to expressing it is to say this; that his mind moves in aperfect but small circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle.There is such a thing as narrow universality, a small and crampedeternity. You may see it in many modern religions. Now speaking quiteexternally and empirically, we may say the strongest and most converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • unmistakable mark of madness is this combination of a logicalcompleteness and a spiritual contraction.The lunatic’s theory explains a large number of things, but it does notexplain them in a large way. Suppose we could express our deepestfeelings against his obsession, we should begin by saying something likethis:“All Right. Perhaps you know that you are the King of England, but whatdo you care? Make one magnificent effort and you will be a human beingand look down on all the Kings of the Earth.” Or“So you are the creator and redeemer of the World, but what a smallworld it must be. How sad it must be to be God, and an inadequate God,at that. How much happier you would be if the hammer of a higher Godcould smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, andleave you in the open, free like other men, to look up as well as down. “Hence curing a madman is not arguing with a philosopher; it is castingout a devil. Such is the madman of experience. He is in the clean andwell-lit prison of one idea; he is sharpened to one painful point. He hasthe combination of an expansive and exhaustive reason with acontracted common sense.Take the first more obvious case of materialism. As an explanation of theworld, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the qualityof the madman’s argument; we have at once the sense of it coveringeverything and the sense of it leaving everything out. Contemplate someable and sincere materialist and you will have exactly this uniquesensation. He understands everything and everything does not seemworth understanding.His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cogwheel, but still hiscosmos is smaller than our world. Somehow his scheme, like the lucidscheme of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and thelarge indifference of the Earth; it is not thinking of the real things of theearth, of fighting peoples, proud mothers, first love, or fear upon the sea.The earth is so very large and the cosmos is so very small. The cosmos isabout the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.Materialists and Madmen never have any doubts. The men who cannotbelieve his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, areboth insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in theirargument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. They haveboth locked themselves up in two boxes, painted inside with sun andstars; they are both unable to get out. The one into the health andhappiness of Heaven, the other even into the health and happiness ofEarth.We may say in summary, that the chief mark and element of insanity isreason used without root, reason in a void. But we may ask inconclusion, if this were what drives men mad, what is it that keeps themsane?Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery, you havehealth. When you destroy mystery, you create morbidity. The ordinaryman has always been sane because he has always been a mystic. He haspermitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the otherin fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his Gods; but freealso to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than forconsistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other,he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. Hisspiritual sight as stereoscopic: he sees two different pictures at once andyet sees all the better for that.Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but sucha thing as free will also. Thus he believed that children were indeed theKingdom of Heaven, but nevertheless ought to be obedient to theKingdom of earth. He admired Youth because it was young and Agebecause it was not. It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictionsthat has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man.The whole secret of mysticism is this; THAT MAN CAN UNDERSTANDEVERYTHING BY THE HELP OF WHAT HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND. Themorbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making converted by Web2PDFConvert.com
    • everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious,and everything else becomes lucid.As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, wemay very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery andhealth.Buddhism is centripetal. But Christianity is centrifugal; it breaksout. The cross, though it has at its heart, a collision and contradiction,can extend its four arms forever without altering shape. Because it has aparadox at its center, it can grow without changing. The cross opens itsarms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.And another symbol from physical nature will express sufficiently well,the real place of mysticism before mankind. The one created thing, whichwe cannot look at, is the one thing in the light of which we look ateverything. Like the Sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything elseby the blaze of its own victorious invisibility.Detached intellectualism is all moonshine; for it is the light without heat,and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greekswere right when they made Apollo the God of both imagination and ofsanity. For he was both a patron of poetry and the patron of healing. TheTranscendentalism by which all men live has primarily much theposition of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as a kind of splendidconfusion; it is both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. Butthe Circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent andinevitable as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterlyreasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has rightly givento them all her name.Leave a ReplyYour em ail address will not be published. Name Email Website Post Comment Notify m e of follow-up com m ents via em ail. Send m e site updates Blog at WordPress.com . Them e: Sapphire by Michael Martine. converted by Web2PDFConvert.com