“A fixed form”

The advantage of a fixed form is not at all understood by people in our times. The advantage of a fixed form is that it really varies — that is, by its very fixity, it measures the various moods in which we approach it.  Getting up in the morning is a fixed form; if it were not a fixed form, I, for one, would never do it.  No getting up for me — nisi me compelleret ecclesiae auctoritas.  But it is exactly because I have to get up every morning that I notice that one day is bright blue, another brown and foggy, another cold, clear, and silvery, and my mood varies accordingly.  On the bright blue day my spirits go slightly down; there seems something pitiless about perfect weather.  On the clear cool day, my spirits are normal.  In the fog, my spirits go up; it feels like the end of the world, or better still, a detective story.  But I should not appreciate any of these differences if I had not a fixed common duty to perform on each of such days; if it were not that under the blue dome of summer or the yellow umbrella of the fog, I have to go through the same disgusting rites of washing and getting dressed.  It is the same with the advantages of keeping up a fixed ceremonial through the ages.  The fixed formality stands as a permanent critic of the changing society.  Thus, if we continue one form from childhood, such as keeping a diary, or a birthday, this is the only thing that enables us to realise change.

The Illustrated London News, 26 September 1908.

Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 7:09 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great quote – insightful and delightfully written – which are, as always, hallmarks of GKC’s writing. I’m glad you found this one and posted it. This is the kind of remark that always leaves me smiling.

    Next Wednesday is November 5. Perhaps you could find an “Illustrated News” quote from that very date?

  2. Chesterton’s column in The Illustrated London News appeared once each week, on a date that corresponds, in 2008, to Friday, so I’m afraid there is no column dated November 5. I did look to see whether he might have said something, on a nearby date, about the Gunpowder Plot or Guy Fawkes’ night, but it seems not.

    Thanks for reading!


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