Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Vol. 1, (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1908/1986), 211-366


Contents


Notes from 2022-05-04

Chesterton's style is incomparable: so playful, so full of common sense, always turning things upside down and making them right. This time around I listened to Orthodoxy and when I compared my bookmarks to Jordan's in her hard copy I was delighted to find that they were almost identical.

Chapter 1: Introduction in Defense of Everything Else

  • "We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable." (213)
  • "Christian theology (summarized in the Apostles' Creed), is the best root of energy and sound ethics." (215)

Chapter 2: The Maniac

  • "Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness." (216)
  • "The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason." (222)
  • "How much larger you life would be if yourself could become smaller in it" (223)
  • "Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic." (230)
  • "The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand." (231)

Chapter 3: The Suicide of Thought

  • "The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone man. The virtues have gone made because they have been isolate from each other and are wandering alone." (233)
  • "A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself." (235)
  • "Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all." (236)
  • "In so far as religion is gone, reason is going...They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved." (237)
  • "Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism." (237)
  • "'All chairs are quite different,' he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them 'all chairs.'" (238)
  • "Every act of will is an act of self-limitation...When you choose anything, you reject everything else...The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits." (243)
  • Great passage about Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, and St. Joan of Arc, including: "She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. yet she wa a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing." (247-248)

Chapter 4: The Ethics of Elfland

  • "Ordinary things are more valuable than extraordinary things; nay, they are more extraordinary...the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves—the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state." (249-250)
  • "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death." (251)
  • "The things I believe most are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things...Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense." (252)
  • "A thing must be loved before it is loveable." (253)
  • "The test of all happiness is gratitude." (258)
  • Chastity: "To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking." (261)
  • Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (263-264)
  • "This world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller." (264)

Chapter 5: The Flag of the World

  • Patriotism: "When you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness is a reason for loving it more...Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her." (270-271)

    • "The more transcendental is your Patriotism, the more practical are your politics." (274)

  • "The heart must be fixed on the right thing: the moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand." (274)
  • "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...Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?"
  • "A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life." (276)
  • Relativism: "An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century." (278)
  • "Marcus Aurelius is the most intolerable of human types. He is an unselfish egoist. An unselfish egoist is a man who has pride without the excuse of passion. Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within." (279)
  • "The mere pursuit of health always leads to something unhealthy. Physical nature must not be made the direct object of obedience; it must be enjoyed, not worshipped." (280)
  • "The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit in to the world...I could feel homesick at home." (283-284)

Chapter 6: The Paradoxes of Christianity

  • Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die...He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it." (297)
  • "Charity certainly means one of two things—pardoning unpardonable acts, or loving unlovable people." (299)
  • "It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own." (305)

Chapter 7: The Eternal Revolution

  • "First, that some faith in our life is required even to improve it; second, that some dissatisfaction with things as they are is necessary even in order to be satisfied; third, that to have this necessary content and necessary discontent it is not sufficient to have the obvious equilibrium of the Stoic." (307)
  • "Inequality, as much as equality, implies a standard of value." (308)
  • Nietzsche is a timid thinker for only putting his thought in metaphor: "Had he faced his thought without metaphors, he would have seen that it was nonsense." (309)
  • "We have said we must be fond of this world, even in order to change it. We now add that we must be fond of another world (real or imaginary) in order to have something to change it to." (310)
  • "Ours is only an age of conservation because it is an age of complete unbelief." (311)
  • "We must say broadly that free thought is the best of all the safeguards against freedom...Teach [the slave] to worry about whether he wants to be free, and he will not free himself." (312)
  • Eden: "You may alter the place to which you are going; but you cannot alter the place from which you have come." (315)

Chapter 8: The Romance of Orthodoxy

  • "A miracle only means the liberty of God." (333)
  • "All humanity does agree that we are in a net of sin. Most of humanity agrees that there is some way out. But as to what is the way out, I do not think that there are two institutions in the universe which contradict each other so flatly as Buddhism and Christianity." (335)

Chapter 9: Authority and the Adventurer

  • "Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground." (350)
  • Miracles 355+
  • "The very time when I was most under a woman's authority, I was most full of flame and adventure." (360)
  • "I simply conclude that I am wrong, and the church right." (361)
  • "When they say 'enlightened' they man darkened with incurable despair." (364)
  • "There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth." (366)

Notes from 2014-10-06

Chapter 1

  • We need to combine a sense of wonder with a sense of being at home
  • Romance is a balance between adventure and comfort
  • Story about the man in the yacht you thinks he's discovering a new land but realizes just rediscovering (how Chesterton feels about "discovering" Christianity

    Chapter 2

  • All theological argument begins with an a knowledge meant of Original Sin

  • The classic books have the similarity that we hero is a normal person who has extraordinary adventures rather than an abnormal person
  • A madman is someone who has lost everything except his reason
  • Mystery keeps us sane
  • Man can understand everything by the help of that he does not understand: secret mysticism
  • Buddhism is centrifugal; Christianity is centripetal

    Chapter 3

  • Virtues are present today but dangerous when modernity separates them

  • Humility We must make ourselves small did the world to be large
  • We must doubt ourselves but not the truth

    Chapter 4

  • The rest of happiness is gratitude

  • Economy is more romantic than extravagance
  • The world doesn't explain itself
  • Magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have someone to mean it
  • This purpose is beautiful
  • The proper response is humility and restraint

    Chapter 5

  • Something is great because we love it not the other way around

  • Optimism is analogous to patriotism
  • To be an optimist we must love what we chastise
  • The more love is bound the less it is blind
  • The moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand
  • Chesterton puts forward the ideal of the irrational optimist

    Chapter 6 - the paradoxes of Christianity

  • The world is nearly reasonable

  • We must seek life with an indifference for our lives
  • Christianity seeks to keep opposite colors together and pure

    Chapter 8

  • It takes more thought to use short words than long words

  • "Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls but they are the walls of a playground"
  • The church is a living being, as if you could meet Plato or Shakespeare at breakfast tomorrow
  • I accept the church and not particular truths we pick out of it
  • We can find adventures in a land of authority
  • Man is more manly when joy is the primary thing in him
  • He ends by proclaiming Jesus' mirth and how he hid it

From Dan Gibson 2021-12-17-Fri:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.


Topic: Orthodoxy

Bibliography

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (267)

Created: 2014-10-06
Updated: 2022-07-04-Mon