Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Sample of Originality

One of the most notable characteristics of G.K. Chesterton’s 1908 book entitled Orthodoxy is its originality. I’m now on my second reading of this book—and that because Chesterton’s style is also quite original, a kind of quick and bubbling flow of thought that, turns out, is highly systematic; but the underlying ideas shift with great speed. I expect to say more later, but now a quote that struck me:

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 (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), 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. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. My Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race—because he is so human.

The Blatchford here mentioned was probably Robert Blatchford. Wikipedia’s article on  him (link) begins thus: “Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford (17 March 1851 – 17 December 1943) was a socialist campaigner, journalist and author in the United Kingdom. He was a prominent atheist and opponent of eugenics. He was also an English patriot. In the early 1920s, after the death of his wife, he turned towards spiritualism.”

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