Thursday, February 03, 2011

Narration: What is Right With the World by G.K. Chesterton

(Chesterton's essay found here)

Chesterton says that his editor gave him the title of the essay, and that authors often suffer from the enthusiasm of publishers. He doesn’t mind this very much, but it is necessary to restate the title when the publisher writes it, since most of the time a publisher’s title is at once too complex and too simple. For instance, what is wrong with the world is the Devil, and what is right with the world is God; regardless of the muddles we get ourselves into, what is right and what is wrong will remain the same until the end of time. But at the same time, the fine details need to be puzzled out.

One of the most gratifying things of the current time is that so many of the prophecies of the learned have been proven wrong. This is mainly because the common man has not read the prophecies and does not realize he ought to proceed on a certain course. (Sort of like the cartoon character that flies along high in the sky until a bird tells him he shouldn’t be able to fly.) It is wrong to say he is uneducated though—schools will never teach the really important things, like “the dependence of infancy, the enjoyment of animals, the love of woman and the fear of death.”

What is right with the world is rooted in original realities, not in progress or change. Even revolution, which seems so revolutionary, is actually rooted in the ancient doctrine of the dignity of man. The progressive says that we have come from evil and are headed toward good. But Chesterton is more certain that we started with good. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and He said they were good. Life is inherently good, although we may live in an evil or good way. “We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure.”

What is currently wrong with the world (in addition to the Devil) is the idea that unity is always to be desired. This idea is essentially pessimistic. “Division and variety are what is right with the world.” The idea of one thing blending into another, ad infinitum, is a desire to return to the chaos before Creation. It is true that a man and woman, when married, become ‘one flesh’, but in one of those paradoxes so common in scripture, they are also distinct opposites of one another. How can we appreciate beauty without contrast?

The priggish pedants have decided that everything must blend, although the masses know the opposite to be true. It is hard to determine who will win, even though the masses have more numbers, because the deterioration of religious thought has left people at the mercy of their animal instincts. Animal instinct can be right, but animals can be cowed, too.

We make politics too important. We forget how much of life remains the same whether you are ruled by a Sultan or a Senate. The sunrise is glorious and getting out of bed is a nuisance, no matter what Government is in charge. As we attempt to change government for the better and cure social ills, we tend to disregard original principles about man and living—“in his long fight to get a slave a half-holiday [the typical modern man] may angrily deny those ancient and natural things, the zest of being, the divinity of man, the sacredness of simple things, the health and humour of the earth, which alone make a half-holiday even half a holiday or a slave even half a man.”

“The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.”

(Quotes taken from Chesterton's essay. Also, this is my own narration, not one of the kid's.)

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