Thursday, August 24, 2006

Self-confidence (Orthodoxy)

This past Spring I joined the Rochester Chesterton Society. I had actually first encountered the society years ago, but had lost track of them until this year.

One of the group's activities is for members to spend a year all reading the same Chesterton book, a chapter or two at a time, and discussing what they read at the monthly meetings. At the time that I joined, they were just finishing up St. Francis of Assisi.

Before going on a summer break, the group’s leader announced that the next book will be Orthodoxy. He suggested that we all get a copy in time for the September meeting, and recommended that we get a hold of the annotated edition.

I actually had two copies of Orthodoxy. One was a battered Doubleday Image Book I’d gotten in the 1970s, the other the Ignatius Press edition.

Still, I ordered a copy of the annotated edition.

It arrived this summer.

When I first glanced at the notes, I was disappointed.

I’m an English and History teacher. I know who John Henry Newman, George Bernard Shaw, John Dryden, William Cowper and Hans Holbein are. I know what sophistry, rotters, gorgons and griffins are. I know the Apostle’s Creed.

I was confident in my knowledge and my ability to understand such references even without notes.

Ah, but then I stumbled across Hanwell, Joanna Southcote, Reginald John Campbell and Robert B. Suthers.

And suddenly, I understood what Chesterton meant in part when he talked about a man who "believes in himself."

"It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail because he believes in himself. Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness."

I readily admit that I am a sinner and weak, so it's not hard to admit the truth of his comments.

Besides, it could have been worse:

"The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums."

No comments: