Human Exceptionalism

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“The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle” – cave paintings from 25,000 years ago.

“The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one. He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame.” ― G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

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Happy New Year!

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“I generally make my New Year resolutions somewhere towards the end of May, for I belong to that higher order of beings who not only forget to keep promises, but forget even to make them. Besides, my birthday is somewhere about then; and I like to be born again at the time I was born.” -G.K. Chesterton, “Daily News” (London), January 11, 1913

The Power of Gratitude

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“Gratitude comes with a price, says Chesterton, ‘and the price is Truth.’ Facing reality is the best way to avoid either the low of despair or the high of presumption. Coming to grips with the truth is the best way to cultivate a sense of hope and savor an experience, because truth places before us exactly what we have and avoids mistaken comparisons about how we deserve better (or worse). Comparisons kill happiness.” ~Fr. Michael Rennier 

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a little article on Chesterton’s wonderful (and wonder-filled) insights on the power of gratitude.

“How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Like G.K. Chesterton”

Enjoy!

A Defense of the Book of Job

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Detail from W. Blake’s  “Behemoth and Leviathan”

“Job’s friends attempt to comfort him with philosophical optimism, like the intellectuals of the eighteenth century.  Job tries to comfort himself with philosophical pessimism like the intellectuals of the nineteenth century.  But God comforts Job with indecipherable mystery, and for the first time Job is comforted.”

“Leviathon and the Hook” by G.K. Chesterton 

 — The Speaker, September 9, 1905

A review of “The Original Poem of Job” – Translated from the Restored Text by E. T. Dillon

Chesterton: “Because man is a spirit and unfathomable the past is really as startling and incalculable as the future.  The dead men are as active and dramatic as the men unborn; we know decisively that the men unborn will be men; and we cannot decisively know anything more about the dead.  It is not merely true that Nero may have been misunderstood; he must have been misunderstood, for no man can understand another.  Hence to dive into any very ancient human work is to dive into a bottomless sea, and the man who seeks old things will be always finding new things.  Centuries hence the world will be still seeking for the secret of Job, which is, indeed, in a sense the secret of everything.  It is no disrespect to such able and interesting works as Professor Dillon’s to say that they are only stages in an essentially endless process, the proper appreciation of one of the inexhaustible religious classics.  None of them says the last word on Job, for the last word could only be said on the Last Day.  For a great poem like Job is in this respect like life itself.  The explanations are popular for a month or popular for a century.  But they all fall.  The unexplained thing is popular for ever.  There are weaknesses in the Higher Criticism, as a general phenomenon, which are only gradually unfolding themselves.  There are more defects or difficulties than would at first appear in the scientific treatment of Scripture.  But after all the greatest defect in the scientific treatment of Scripture is simply that it is scientific.  The professor of the Higher Criticism is never tired of declaring that he is detached, that he is disinterested, that he is concerned only with the facts, that he is applying to religious books the unbending methods which are employed by men of science towards the physical order.  If what he says of himself is true, he must be totally unfitted to criticize any books whatever.

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When Mercy and Justice Kiss

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Detail from W. Blake’s The Woman Taken in Adultery

“The modern world is not evil; in some ways, the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered … it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.” ~G.K. Chesterton 

This is one of my favorite passages written by G.K. Chesterton (from his masterpiece Orthodoxy). He is referring to the secular Western world: a society without a unified system of moral thought like Christianity. I think it applies to those of us within Christendom, too, because it speaks to a sinful tendency buried deep within us all as a consequence of the Fall.

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