On the Love of Country

MNhOdOn

“On all sides we hear to-day of the love of our country, and yet anyone who has literally such a love must be bewildered at the talk, like a man hearing all men say that the moon shines by day and the sun by night. The conviction must come to him at last that these men do not realize what the word ‘love’ means, that they mean by the love of country, not what a mystic might mean by the love of God, but something of what a child might mean by the love of jam. To one who loves his fatherland, for instance, our boasted indifference to the ethics of a national war is mere mysterious gibberism. It is like telling a man that a boy has committed murder, but that he need not mind because it is only his son. Here clearly the word ‘love’ is used unmeaningly. It is the essence of love to be sensitive, it is a part of its doom; and anyone who objects to the one must certainly get rid of the other. This sensitiveness, rising sometimes to an almost morbid sensitiveness, was the mark of all great lovers like Dante and all great patriots like Chatham. ‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’ No doubt if a decent man’s mother took to drink he would share her troubles to the last; but to talk as if he would be in a state of gay indifference as to whether his mother took to drink or not is certainly not the language of men who know the great mystery.

What we really need for the frustration and overthrow of a deaf and raucous Jingoism is a renascence of the love of the native land. When that comes, all shrill cries will cease suddenly. For the first of all the marks of love is seriousness: love will not accept sham bulletins or the empty victory of words. It will always esteem the most candid counsellor the best.” –G. K. Chesterton, “A Defense of Patriotism”

“G.K. Chesterton” by A.G. Gardiner

web3-g-k-chesterton-public-domain

“He lives in a world of romance, peopled with giants and gay with the light laughter of fairies.”

by A.G. Gardiner (a friend of Chesterton’s and well-known author and editor of the Daily News ) from Prophets, Priests, and Kings, 1917

Walking down Fleet Street someday you may meet a form whose vastness blots out the heavens. Great waves of hair surge from under the soft, wide-brimmed hat. A cloak that might be a legacy from Porthos floats about his colossal frame. He pauses in the midst of the pavement to read the book in his hand, and a cascade of laughter descending from the head … gushes out on the listening air. He looks up, adjusts his pince-nez, observes that he is not in a cab, remembers that he ought to be in a cab, turns and hails a cab. The vehicle sinks down under the unusual burden and rolls heavily away. It carries Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Continue reading

First Impressions and Intelligent Design

“It is the design in Nature that strikes us first …”

“Everyone must have noticed the same thing in the fixed and almost offensive color of all unfamiliar things, tropic birds and tropic blossoms. Tropic birds look like staring toys out of a toy-shop. Tropic flowers simply look like artificial flowers, like things cut out of wax. This is a deep matter, and, I think, not unconnected with divinity; but anyhow it is the truth that when we see things for the first time we feel instantly that they are fictive creations; we feel the finger of God. It is only when we are thoroughly used to them and our five wits are wearied, that we see them as wild and objectless; like the shapeless tree-tops or the shifting cloud. It is the design in Nature that strikes us first; the sense of the crosses and confusions in that design only comes afterwards through experience and an almost eerie monotony. If a man saw the stars abruptly by accident he would think them as festive and as artificial as a firework. We talk of the folly of painting the lily; but if we saw the lily without warning we should think that it was painted.”

~G.K. Chesterton from What’s Wrong with the World

“The Philosophy of First Thoughts” by G.K. Chesterton

6962071-cute-birds

 

“We can never fight our way back to what we originally thought of something; it is blotted from our memory like the first version of a sketch that has been rubbed out thirty times.”

“The Philosophy of First Thoughts” by G.K. Chesterton

The Speaker, September 14, 1901

Proverbs are regarded as sacred things. The mere word suffices for the name of one of the books of the Bible, and yet it is remarkable what a large number of current proverbs when properly understood seem like texts from the horrible scriptures of a lower world. Proverbs are commonly at the best truisms; and a truism is a dead truth, a truth that we no longer feel as true. Spring, the stars, marriage, and death are truths, and it should be the aim of all literature and philosophy to prevent their becoming truisms. But it is extraordinary to notice the large number of proverbs, enshrining the wisdom of many generations, which are really mean and materialistic axioms fighting at every point against the realisation of a higher and more liberal life. We are told, for example, that “a penny saved is a penny gained,” but proverbial philosophy is silent upon the far deeper and more practical piece of wisdom that a penny spent is a penny gained. If the author of the proverb wished to express himself with true philosophical lucidity he should have said that a penny saved is a penny placed in such a position that at some remote period it may effectively be gained. This form of words would make the proverb slightly more inconvenient for the purposes of constant repetition, but this I incline to think would be an advantage. Instances might be produced ad infinitum. It is said that “little things please little minds” but there is perhaps no better test of a great mind than that it reverences little things. It is said that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and a whole sermon might be preached against the vulgarity and inhumanity of the sentiment. A flower growing untouched in a meadow, a flower, therefore, that is really a flower, is immeasurably more ours when we enjoy it as such than when we amputate it, and put it in a pot, as if it were a diseased limb. A part of the cosmic life which preserves its own divine indifference to ourselves is worth any number of cosmic slaves that we have taught to fawn upon us. A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand. Everywhere we find this same quality in proverbs, that, although they are certainly not immoral, although they may be said to contain a certain brisk diurnal morality, yet they certainly fight so far as they go against the higher and braver life. But in no case is this so remarkable as in the curious statement that second thoughts are best.

Continue reading

“Woman and the Philosophers” by G.K. Chesterton

Simon_Glücklich_Paar_im_Gespräch.jpg

Simon Glücklich “Paar im Gespräch”

Woman and the Philosophers by G.K. Chesterton 

The Speaker, January 26, 1901

The title of the work before us is Woman: a Scientific Study and Defence. It never occurred to us before that woman stood in need of a defence of any kind; and what the women of our acquaintance would think of being made the subject of a “scientific defence” we shudder to conceive. The work which Mr. Seed has adapted from M. Fouillee contains a considerable amount of sound and suggestive argument against the scientific theories of the inferiority of woman; but the plan of the book is a mistake. Instead of attempting to base the equality of the sexes on the domestic habits of some wretched amoeba in the primeval twilight, the author should have turned on the men of science and told them, with all possible respect, that they have nothing whatever to do with questions of superiority and inferiority. Obviously they have not. Whether woman is structurally different to man is a matter of physical science, whether she is superior or inferior or equal is not a matter of physical science; it is a question of what you happen to want. Science does its duty in saying that monkeys have tails and men have not; but as for saying that it is better not to have tails, that is a matter of taste and imagination, and by no means certain even at that.

Continue reading

“The Dickensian” by G.K. Chesterton

Yarmouth_-_Isle_of_Wight_-_A._Heaton_Cooper

The Dickensian” by G.K. Chesterton

He was a quiet man, dressed in dark clothes, with a large limp straw hat; with something almost military in his moustache and whiskers, but with a quite unmilitary stoop and very dreamy eyes. He was gazing with a rather gloomy interest at the cluster, one might almost say the tangle, of small shipping which grew thicker as our little pleasure boat crawled up into Yarmouth Harbour. A boat entering this harbour, as every one knows, does not enter in front of the town like a foreigner, but creeps round at the back like a traitor taking the town in the rear. The passage of the river seems almost too narrow for traffic, and in consequence the bigger ships look colossal. As we passed under a timber ship from Norway, which seemed to block up the heavens like a cathedral, the man in a straw hat pointed to an odd wooden figurehead carved like a woman, and said, like one continuing a conversation, “Now, why have they left off having them. They didn’t do any one any harm?”

Continue reading