"Dawson argues that the Catholic interpretation of history is unique in being able to deal easily with the unexpected and the unpredictable in history. This is something that the rationalist continually has difficulty with, because, as Dawson says, 'He is always looking for neat systems of laws and casual sequences from which history can be automatically deduced.' Dawson responds to such a thinker: 'But history is impatient of all such artificial constructions. . . It allows the whole world situation to be suddenly transformed by the action of a single individual like Mohammed or Alexander.' Thus, Dawson clearly respects the role of the free individual and the hidden secrets often underlying history that remain unexplained in human terms." Joseph Stuart, The University Bookman, Volume 42, 2002.
"At least five times, therefore, with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died." GKC, The Everlasting Man
I've made it easier to post comments. Previously, you had to have a blogger account. Now, anyone can post, even anonymously if you want. Just click the comment link below, type your message, and click "Login and Publish." You won't have to log in. It'll just go up.
I try to post something new to this site every day. Today's posting is easy. Gilbert Magazine arrived yesterday, and it mentions two new societies: The Ronald Knox Society of North America and the American Belloc Society. Knox and Belloc, of course, were Chesterton's friends. Therefore, I feel obligated to bring these fine endeavors to everyone's attention. Here are their sites:
"The primary thing that he was going to do was to die. He was going to do other things equally definite and objective; we might almost say equally external and material. But from first to last the most definite fact is that he is going to die. . . . We are meant to feel that Death was the bride of Christ as Poverty was the bride of St. Francis. We are meant to feel that his life was in that sense a sort of love-affair with death, a romance of the pursuit of the ultimate sacrifice. From the moment when the star goes up like a birthday rocket to the moment when the sun is extinguished like a funeral torch, the whole story moves on wings with the speed and direction of a drama, ending in an act beyond words." Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
In 1912 Robert Frost rented a five-room house in Beaconsfield, noting its location "within a mile or two of where Milton finished Paradise Lost and a mile or two of where Grey lies buried and within as many rods as furlongs of the house where Chesterton tries truth to see if it won't prove as true upside down, as it does right side up." [Lawrence Thompson, Robert Frost, New York, 1966, p. 394]
What exactly is Distributism, that economic "school" favored by Chesterton and many of his friends? It's a tough thing to summarize, but the following is a pretty good capsule. It's by Christendom College's Dr. William Fahey and is found in the Introduction to IHS Press' book, The Church and the Land, by Chesterton's priest friend, Vincent McNabb:
"The thought of Distributist thinkers can be set out according to the following canons: (1) Subsidiarity, or the understanding that the members of a primary association (e.g., the family) must structure their lives and direct their actions responsibly and that higher associations should not—without grave cause—usurp a smaller organization's ability to accomplish its task; (2) Proprietary interest, or the commitment to the widespread ownership of property and the means of production; (3) Defense of the local, or a suspicion of private or public entities that threaten (1) or (2), and a willingness to support public policy that encourages small, locally-controlled economies over the domination of large retail chains and global corporations; (4) Craftsmanship, or the confidence that local, community-based economies tend toward greater beauty, quality, and trust between the makers and the users of goods; and (5) Agrarianism, or the belief that a rural society is the best environment for safeguarding tradition, typically understood as family-centered life, self-sufficiency, anti-majoritarianism, the dignity of labor and craftsmanship, good health, small communities, and religious vitality."
“G.K. Chesterton, considering his life in retrospect, said that he had always had the almost mystical conviction of the miracle in all that exists, and of the rapture dwelling essentially within all experience. Within this statement lie three separate assertions: that everything holds and conceals at bottom a mark of its divine origin; that one who catches a glimpse of it ‘sees’ that this and all things are ‘good’ beyond all comprehension; and that, seeing this, he is happy. Here in sum is the whole doctrine of the contemplation of earthly creation.”
Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation (thank you John Peterson for passing this along)
"There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real. It is the fundamental fact of being, as against not being; it is unthinkable, yet we cannot unthink it, though we may sometimes be unthinking about it; unthinking and especially unthanking. For he who has realized this reality knows that it does outweigh, literally to infinity, all lesser regrets or arguments for negation, and that under all our grumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude." Chaucer
"Catholic Christianity occupies an intermediate position between the two spiritual ideals and the two conceptions of reality which have divided the civilized world and the experience of humanity. To the West its ideals appear mystical and other-worldly, while in comparison with the Oriental religions it stands for historical reality and moral activity. It is a stranger in both camps and its home is everywhere and nowhere, like man himself, whose nature maintains a perilous balance between the worlds of spiritual and sensible reality, to neither of which it altogether belongs."
Chesterton blogs have come and gone, but I've never seen a Chesterbelloc blog. It looks like one has been started. Named On Nothing after an entertaining essay by Belloc, it's less than one week old. LINK
It reminds me of Belloc the morning he decided to take a walk to the Roman road through a forest near his home. On his way out, he passed his horse, Monster, who, Belloc tells us, was just standing there "regarding nothingness."
For anyone unacquainted with the term, "Chesterbelloc" is the invention of George Bernard Shaw, who wrote in 1908 that Chesterton and Belloc could not be considered separate entities, but rather they were a conspiracy, and a powerful one at that. "To set yourself against the Chesterbelloc," Shaw wrote, "is not merely to be unpatriotic, like setting yourself against the Daily Mail or Express: itis to set yourself against all the forces . . . of humanity."
I hope to see more Chesterton and Belloc blogs. Heck, I'd like to see someone dedicate a blog to Dawson or Gill or Baring or McNabb. If you start any such blogs, tell me about it and I'll post a notice on this blog. At some point, I'll start up a list of such blogs on the right side of this page.
And if you don't want to start your own blog, I encourage you to send me any appropriate items: relatively-unknown GKC quotes, current figures quoting GKC, anecdotes, whatever.
G.K. Chesterton was a leading character, and a surprisingly true-to-life one, in DC Comics' award-winning comic book, The Sandman, numbers 10 through 16 (November, 1989—June, 1990). The character returned to The Sandman in issue 39 (July, 1992); and showed again for brief third and a fourth turns in numbers 63 and 65 (September and December, 1994). The Gilbert character's later appearances were brief, unexciting, and devoid of apparent significance. The third ended with his violent, grisly, unfunny comic-book death. Gilbert's final appearance came in the August, 1995 issue, as he indignantly refused to permit Morpheus (the Sandman) to raise him from the dead! DC Comics ended publication of The Sandman with issue number 75.
I ran across this opening line in a Fr. James V. Schall essay: "Hilaire Belloc is the greatest essayist in the English language." The University Bookman, Volume 41, 2001.
A bit of an exaggeration? The words of a someone who hasn't read enough, of someone not to be taken seriously?
I am personally acquainted with Fr. Schall, having worked with him at Gilbert Magazine, communicated with him many times by e-mail, and had lunch with him at Georgetown University on a nice spring day. He doesn't strike me as a man that exaggerates, few have read more than him, and he is to be taken seriously—mostly because he doesn't take himself too seriously. A fine man. I recommend all his writing for its Chestertonian perspective, especially Another Sort of Learning and On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs.
A brief history of GKC newsletters/publications in the late twentieth century (by James V. Schall):
"The Midwest Chesterton News is a newsletter published by John Peterson of Barrington, Illinois, and some very devoted Chesterton admirers. Their society has an annual conference in Milwaukee. This is a very lively newsletter, the inspiration for another newsletter from St. Paul, Minnesota, called Generally Speaking, as well as of The Defendant from Western Australia and All Things Considered from Ottawa, Canada. In the Fall of 1997, the Midwest Chesterton News, Generally Speaking, and All Things Considered combined to form a new journal entitled, Gilbert!," which is now known as Gilbert Magazine.
I ran across this passage by GKC while reading Hugh Kenner's book, Paradox in Chesterton:
"All the jokes about men sitting down on their hats are really theological jokes: they are concerned with the Dual Nature of Man. They refer to the primary paradox that man is superior to all the things around him and yet is at their mercy.
"Quite equally spiritual and subtle is the idea at the back of laughing at foreigners. It concerns the almost torturing truth of a thing being like oneself and yet not like oneself. Nobody laughs at what is entirely foreign; nobody laughs at a palm tree. But it is funny to see the familiar image of God disguised behind the black beard of a Frenchman or the black face of a negro." (Sheed & Ward, 1947)
"Laughing at foreigners." Gentle GKC would never try to offend anyone, but how many PC police would thrash him for saying such a thing today! It doesn't matter that it's true. We celebrate diversity; we don't laugh at it. Chesterton, of course, wouldn't have seen anything offensive about laughing at someone because they're different, just as there's no record of him taking offense at people snickering at his lumbering and awkward ways. Such laughing can go too far, of course, but if done with charity (a mark always present in GK), there's nothing wrong with it.
In Style, one of the finest books on writing available, F.L. Lucas writes about "the falsity of the too clever." He cites G.B. Shaw as perhaps the most cleverly false writer: Among "all English writers, I know no clearer example of the perils of cleverness than Bernard Shaw, who ended by selling himself to his own wit, as Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles . . . [T]his onetime reformer who had laboured generously for Fabian Socialism and fearlesly denounced British oppression in Ireland and in Egypt, became, I feel, a hoary mountebank with no passion left except for making men stare by representing every worse cause as the better, and assuming the permanent role of devil's advocate, whether for Mussolini in Ethiopia or for Stalin in the Kremlin." Collier Books, 1962.
In 1981, according to a local Australian Radio Guide, a radio adaptation of The Man Who Was Thursday was broadcast on April 18, 7:30 P.M., on ABC Radio 2's "World Theatre." Chesterton's novel was dramatized by Tony Evans and featured Edgar Metcalfe as Gabriel Syme and Ray Long as President Sunday. [The Chesterton Review, November, 1981, pp. 360-61.] As some Chesterton fans may recall, an earlier radio dramatization of The Man Who Was Thursday was broadcast on Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, September 5, 1938 (just a few weeks before Welles' famous radio recreation of The War of the Worlds). Frank Brady's 1989 biography, Citizen Welles, offers some interesting sidelights on this broadcast. Chesterton's novel was the last production of the Mercury Radio Theatre's inaugural season. Brady credits Welles' "splendid adaptation" of Thursday ("one of the finest shows of the season") with the last minute decision by CBS to renew the Mercury Theatre series. Furthermore, according to Brady, "Welles had great affinity for the works of Chesterton and decided to write the adaptation himself, allowing no assistance." [New York, p. 144]
What if G.K. Chesterton had a blog? What I mean is, what if the great journalist, wit, historian, theologian, and broadcaster were alive today? Would he embrace the new technologies and the opportunities they afford to reach a new and wider audience? Would he have a blogspot site? I think so. He certainly took advantage of radio in its pioneer days--becoming one of the most popular broadcasters at the BBC. No doubt, he would have made quite a good natured fuss over the complexity of the hardware and the software--can't you just see him cajoling Dorothy Collins to hurry up and get his iMac upgraded to OSX so that he could crank out his daily quota of blurbs, vignettes, quips, stories, verses, and columns? But, he would have done it, I am convinced, one way or another. LINK
Back in 2001, popular columnist Mark Shea wrote a nice column about new issues of GKC works. I’m acquainted with Shea’s work and GKC’s work, but didn’t know they were acquainted with each other. It’s a nice little piece. LINK
1. One of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, has said, "The dipsomaniac and the abstainer are not only both mistaken, but they both make the same mistake. They both regard wine as a drug and not as a drink."
I believe this is precisely the problem with many college students today. On the one hand, there are many -- often holding to misguided religious precepts -- who see alcohol as intrinsically evil. In their nervous preoccupation to keep their own hands clean, they might just miss out on some of the most memorable moments in life. And also, these people fail to see the real problem: alcohol does not destroy lives, a lack of discipline with it does.
And then, on the other hand, there are those pitiable creatures whose lives have been wound so tightly around the bottle that they cannot enjoy themselves without a few stiff drinks. The source of joy in their life is no longer family, friendship and personal achievement, but alcohol. Rendered powerless by their dependence, they literally drown themselves in a sea of social irrelevance and personal turmoil.
2. A brilliant journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, has written these powerful words that I think speak mountains of truth to our generation: "I have no belief in abstinence for abstinence's own sake, no wish under any circumstances to check any fulfillment of your life and being. But I have to say to you this: that whatever life is or is not about, it is not to be expressed in terms of drug stupefaction and casual sexual relations. However else we may venture into the unknown it is not I assure you on the plastic wings of Playboy magazine or psychedelic fancies."
Beer and wine, in moderation, are wonderful things. Having a great glass of beer at a killer party can be a defining moment; but when our parties are defined by the beer, it is because there is a vacuum within our culture and perhaps within our very own lives. Meaning in life is found in relationships, not in the false hopes and simulated self-strength that alcohol brings. The primrose path of alcohol over-indulgence is only paved with fleeting pleasures and lasting emptiness.
Welcome to the new Chesterton and Friends blog. What is it? We'll find out when people start coming and, hopefully, commenting.
For starters, it's dedicated to G.K. Chesterton and his "friends." We construe "friends" broadly to mean his acquaintances during his life and the writers he influenced. The list is potentially huge, but here are a few: Belloc, Baring, Lewis, Tolkien, Dawson, Barfield, Knox, Muggeridge. And what the heck: Wells, Shaw, Wilde.
Come frequently for doses of quotes, ancedotes, and commentary. We welcome and encourage comments!