“A fiercer delight”

It will be said that a rational person accepts the world as mixed of good and evil with a decent satisfaction and a decent endurance. But this is exactly the attitude which I maintain to be defective. It is, I know, very common in this age; it was perfectly put in those quiet lines of Matthew Arnold which are more piercingly blasphemous than the shrieks of Schopenhauer —

Enough we live: –and if a life,
With large results so little rife,
Though bearable, seem hardly worth
This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth.

I know this feeling fills our epoch, and I think it freezes our epoch. For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

Orthodoxy (1908).

Published in: on April 23, 2008 at 9:22 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. “I would rather that you were hot or cold, but not lukewarm.”

    Ecclesia militans. Too often do we forget such terms, and I believe this is what Chesterton talks about underneath this wonderful prose. However, the practical problem is that truth is being obscured from the reach of many. “A city seated on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men put a candle under a vessel.” Alas, there are powerful forces which aim to overthrow this light.

    We must fight for truth and that it be brought to light, for only then can we storm castles during the day, and yet take rest in our cottage at evening. The Faith of all times is ever new, and ever sweet, for its fountains never run dry. And as St. Maximus the Confessor says, “Joy” is the best term for the life to come, and so we may say that, if our labors strive towards it, it will bear fruit with the same name. “Iugum enim meum suave est et onus meum leve est – For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”

    Here’s a somewhat relevant quote, from “The Religious Aim of Education.” Though this is just a small, though significant field in the war.

    Many who would despise anything so classical as the teaching of rhetoric, are always ready with any amount of rhetoric in praise of the teaching of science. I am not attacking the teaching of science, still less the teachers of science; I am saying the teaching of evolution, if it becomes an atmosphere, cannot be an atmosphere favourable to moral fire or a fighting spirit. To put it shortly, the teaching of evolution is hardly the training for revolution.


  2. One of my favorite Chesterton passages, for I am always in need of rousing from a “surly contentment.”

    Thanks for taking the time to post all these, I’m enjoying it.

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