“A very narrow ideal of breadth”

There is no person so narrow as the person who is sure that he is broad; indeed, being quite sure that one is broad is itself a form of narrowness. It shows that one has a very narrow ideal of breadth. But, moreover, there is an element involved in the Rationalist position which makes this unintentional bigotry peculiarly natural. A man who is in a house may think it is a very large house. He may think it a much larger house than it is. But he knows it is a house, because of its shape and appearance; because there are doors and windows — therefore there is a world outside. In the same way, a man inside a church may think it is the true church. He may think it a very broad and free church. But he knows it is a church, because it is shaped like one; therefore he knows that there are things beyond and outside the church. But suppose a man lived in a house of mirrors so craftily constructed that he really thought he was alone on an open plain. Suppose a man lived in a church painted so splendidly with sky and cloud that he thought he was in the open air under the dome of heaven. He would be in the same position as the typical Rationalist. Instead of being conscious that he stands in a large church, he is simply unconscious that he stands in a small universe.

The Illustrated London News, 30 April 1910.

Chesterbelloc Edition!

It is strange but informing to discover that these wretchedly provincial attitudes of mind always think themselves universal, and nothing surprises world reformers of such a sort more than the discovery that other men differ from them.

— Hilaire Belloc,
On the Place of Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters (1940).

Published in: on October 19, 2011 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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