blog post #2: Revenge of Chesterton

From the people who brought you... my first blog post, second blog post. Hurrah! Someone tell the mayor!

The first follow up to anything is always tough isn't it? How do you top that first date? Sequels are hard to do well. But you know, it does feel like a time for sequels right now. I mean just the other day the first trailer for 'The Hobbit: Part 2' was released, and it looks pretty fantastic, even if it does have Orlando Bloom in it. The first Hobbit movie got some flak, but why?? It had Gandalf! Riddles! Richard Armitage!

Not only that, but on the same day Warner Bros. announced a sequel for the incredible looking 'Man of Steel', which is pretty keen since the first movie hasn't even come out yet. Hollywood eh. But hey, maybe its good to get ahead with these things. Yeah, and in other news, I've already signed my first book deal! I'm feeling confident.

To raise the hype on this second blog post then, I think I'll employ the tagline used for the 1980 Superman sequel: 'Superman II'. It's genius, unbeatable marketing, I think you'll agree:

"Superman II: If you only seen the first haven't seen the best part!"


Ouch. Wow. Anyway, here is the second part. Who knows if its the best part.

I finally finished a book! That hasn't happened in a while. This is good news. The book in question is 'Orthodoxy' by G.K. Chesterton, the book i mentioned last week and to which this blog owes its title. It was first published way back in 1908, so it's you know, quite old.

It's basically Chesterton writing about how he came to believe in the Christian faith. But if that sounds dry to you, then prepare to be hosed down.

Yes. I'm still working on my metaphors.

This isn't a book of dreary, abstract, academic reasoning. This is part autobiography, part magical mystery tour of the world inside G.K. Chesterton's head. And it's wonderful. Really. I want to just quote you every page of the book, but I fear that would not entice many. Instead I'll give you some highlights to take away and hopefully inspire you to go, find this book, and READ IT. Here goes. Here's five things i learned from G.K. Chesterton.

  1. Life is a fairytale. "I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller." He felt that life was best understood as a fairytale, and that all his childish wonder at life was crushed by a modernist more 'adult' creed which actually made less sense of the world. Let's be clear, he wasn't denying the value of reason or science or education, but he was saying that there was a richness to life that only the fairytale captures. You see, like magic beans, or presents from Santa Claus; this life didn't have to happen, but it did anyway. Chesterton wants to know...why? And I agree. Life is a story. Life matters. It's not random. It's full of love stories, tragedies, heroes, villains, and people walking in the rain. But who is telling the story? Chesterton writes: "I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom..."
  2. Tradition is Democracy. "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." I don't often love tradition. I'm not sure many do in our culture. We often associate it with thinking that is old-fashioned, regressive, unreasonable and undemocratic. And sometimes it is. But Chesterton makes an interesting point. He says that recognising the value of tradition isn't opposed to democracy, rather it's the logical consequence of democracy. It's the 'extension of the franchise' to those who are no longer with us. It's giving credit to the thinking of our forefathers. It doesn't mean we have to just accept all the traditions we inherit (slavery perhaps?), but it should cause us to pause before we condemn all that came before us. This is pretty important for Church History and Theology as well. Looking back is just as important as looking forward. To blindly accept all traditions might be stupid, but to ignore them all is just as blind.
  3. Reason can make you mad. "The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason." I don't want to be glib in summarising Chesterton, he doesn't speak simply and says quite alot, but I'll try and express at least a part of what he is saying. Basically, thinking IS good, but trying to work everything out, to explain it all and make it logical inside your head will take you nowhere. I know myself I've had many a headache trying to work out the meaning of life or the answer to some theological conundrum. How exactly did the world get here? Why exactly? Hows it all going to end? Those are important questions and there are some answers, but you can never understand all of life like some simple, logical equation. And you shouldn't want to. There's something beautiful about mystery. He puts it bluntly: "thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot." Boom!
  4. Paradoxes are cool. "Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by  keeping them both, and keeping them both furious...One can hardly think too little of one's self. One can hardly think too much of one's soul." He's keen to avoid either/or traps, false dichotomies, or excessive extremes. Are human beings fundamentally good, or evil? Is there a time to fight, or must we be always peaceful? Which is better to have, pride or humility? Chesterton wants to avoid lame compromises to those issues. The dissatisfying meet-in-the-middle. They're big questions, and the answer to them is always...'yes'. It's all true. It's hard to explain (and understand!) fully and succinctly so I just leave you with that quote. Go read the rest! And the last line of that quote, that's just grace right there. We're worse than we imagined, and we're more loved than we ever dared hope.
  5. It's all about joy. "Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live." This is how he ends the book. On Joy. I love that quote. He doesn't deny despair or tell us to just put on a happy face when things suck, but he does say that joy should have the final word. That's what its all about. It's how the fairytale begins; it's how the story ends. He even calls joy "the gigantic secret of the Christian." That doesn't mean Christians are the best at smiling, it means that God is fundamentally joyful. At the heart of the being of God, three mysterious persons in one, is Joy. We're invited to join that joy. That's a challenge isn't it? Sometimes life IS tough and less than we hoped for and we should admit that; yet at other times I find myself sad but only because I court despair; I choose it. The challenge is instead to remember just how wonderful the good things are. Choose joy.

Well, there's a bit of Chesterton for you. He says SO much more than that, but these are just some of the things i picked up on. I may not have agreed with everything he said, but he did say it brilliantly. I also love that he wrote all this in 1908. 100 years on and life hasn't changed that much. Environments changed, questions are pretty much the same. And Pimlico still needs alota love, I think. 

And that folks, was Blog Post #2! How was it? I'd love your feedback and comments. Better than 'Cats and Dogs 2'? Let's hope so. 

Happy Thursday!


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