Friday, May 29, 2009

Chesterton at 135

Late Victorian era novelist and essayist Gilbert Keith Chesterton would have been 135 today, had he been exempt from bodily decay. He was not, so it is up to us remaining to carry the torch of his legacy. And, oh, what a legacy. Some gems:
  • "An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." - On Running After Ones Hat, All Things Considered, 1908

  • "Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance." - The Speaker, 12/15/00

  • "By experts in poverty I do not mean sociologists, but poor men." - ILN, 3/25/11

  • "I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid." - ILN 6-3-22

  • "A man imagines a happy marriage as a marriage of love; even if he makes fun of marriages that are without love, or feels sorry for lovers who are without marriage." - Chaucer
Chesterton excelled at creating the rules for the debate by identifying the underlying epistemological assumptions. He understood that most idealogies are fueled by those who are absolutely certain of one thing. Often, this same certainty blinded them to every other fact. He was a generalist in the very best sense of the word: someone who looked at the big picture and really wanted people (other than himself) to be happy. This is far more difficult than it sounds.

If you've never read Chesterton, I can't recommend him enough. His most famous book, Orthodoxy, can be difficult to plow through, but it's worth the effort. His essays and novels are available online, for free, here. You can also see some of his short fiction, of which the Father Brown Mysteries were the most noted.

Happy birthday, GKC. May God grant us many more.

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