Dale Ahlquist seemed to be on a mission: To link everything to Chesterton.
During the September 26 Rochester Chesterton Conference, Dale, with a smile, somehow managed to get a mention of Chesterton or Chestertonian ideas into every discussion. He even said that Pope Benedict was a good writer - but he would be even better if he quoted Chesterton more often.
Okay, he's doing his job. What do you expect from a guy whose wife suggests he found reading Chesterton the highlight of their honeymoon!
Ahlquist added a lighter touch to the conference that, while it had some amusing moments (who picked an Irishman to introduce that old Irish Catholic basher Joseph Pearce?!), was at times a bit heavy going. Good, enjoyable, enlightening - but not quite what one might have expected from a conference whose title was "Re-Awakening Wonder."
The conference featured not only Ahlquist ("The Universe and Other Little Things") and Pearce ("Standing on Our Heads: Wonder as the Key to Happiness"), but also Tom Howard ("On Childhood, Art, and Eternity") and David Higbee ("Wonder in Holy Writ"). The latter two were the first two speakers, neither had the style that Pearce and Ahlquist had, and both read speeches that, to be honest, sounded like they would have been better as magazine articles, or college lectures.
Enough negativism. I did enjoy the conference. I alwuays enjoy Dale and Pearce, and I wanted to hear Howard, whose books I have read with pleasure. I left with a number of things to mull over.
Howard talked about the "capacity to see wonder in ordinary things." He pointed out that childhood, art and eternity are the three realms in which to experience glory. In childhood, we see the world with a sense of wonder. We lose that sense of wonder as we grow older, but art can help us to glimpse it again. He noted that "childhood and art seem to me to be the harbingers of eternity."
He then talked at length about C.S. Lewis, and in particular the Chronicles of Narnia,. Those seven books help us to rediscover the glory inherent in the ordinary. He made me want to reread Lewis - especially the Chronicles.
Higbee said that wonder is at the "heart of all true spirituality." He pointed out the sense of wonder and awe in multiple scriptural citations.
Pearce noted that while mature Christians are not childish, they should still be child-like.
He suggested that when God turned His back on Adam and Eve, he may have been laughing - as a parent might laugh after punishing a child. For God knew what was to come, and the glory that awaits us.
"Ultimately the key to happiness is learning to love as God loves, and learn to laugh as God laughs."
Ahlquist quoted Chesterton repeatedly - so much so that I wasn't sure at times what was Ahlquist and what was Chesterton. Which was absolutely fine with me.
Overall, a good day.