Archives For G.K Chesterton

The Glow Of Holly

December 10, 2015 — Leave a comment

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……………………………..In all the winter in our woods there is no tree in glow but the holly.’
– G. K. Chesterton, Heretics 1905:50

IMG_5720Jesus’ stated, ‘…you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.’ (Matthew.10:22; Mark 13:13).

Not hated because we reflect the light, but because, although, we were ‘at one time darkness, we are now, light in the Lord.’ (Paul, to the Church in Ephesus, 5:8). Therefore, we ‘walk as children of the light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ (Eph.5:11).

It’s where this:

‘A summer’s sun, even when beclouded, yields more comfort and warmth to the earth than a winter’s sun that shines brightest.’
(Charles Spurgeon, FPG)

Reminds me of G.K Chesterton’s,

“the moon gives off light, but not life. It is a cold, morbid light. It is light without heat ; a secondary light, only a dim reflection from a dead world.” (Orthodoxy, p.18 paraphrased)

From there, Plato’s cave (The Republic, 360 BC) comes to mind. Three men. Prisoners, shackled in darkness since birth. Their only knowledge of life is obtained from flickers of light, reflecting shadows on the wall. Each image mesmerises them. Birthed into deception, they are stopped from noticing the bright light beaming in from the cave’s entrance. Until the chains are removed from one of the men, who then proceeds to move outside.  Believing shadows to be more real than the things he now sees, at first he is disoriented and confused – ‘looking straight at the light, brings pain to his eyes.’ (ibid, p.131). After some time passes the freed man begins to see the shadows for what they are, a counterfeit reality – only ‘the shadows of true existence; false notions’.

He returns to the cave to spread this news and free the others. Instead, he is met with violence, ridicule and aggression, because:

 ‘it was better not even to think of ascending [out of the cave]; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.’ (ibid, p.132)
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderment of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.’ (ibid, p.133)

The pre-“Christendom” Christians, namely the disciple, John, point to a dichotomy between a spirit of truth and the spirit of error (deception); of combating this by ‘walking in love and truth’ (2 John.4), of ‘speaking truth in love’ (Paul, Eph.4:6).

In Christ, we are called [and called to be, what and who we already are in Christ] children of the light, not a morbid, ineffective, static, dim and cold, secondary light. When a light offends our eyes, we don’t turn the light off. We wait for our eyes to adjust and navigate from there.

Let Christ shine bright; walk the talk – ‘let us love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John.3:18), – taking into account prayer, wisdom and discernment – even if it means people are offended; or like the prisoners of Plato’s cave, in their state of happy ignorance, act out of their offended-ness accuse falsely, and ‘hate us without cause’ (John 15:18 –  16:1-3).

 


Sources:

Chesterton, G.K. 1901 Orthodoxy Relevant Books

Plato, The Republic

Spurgeon, C. 1883 Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden Funk & Wagnalls Publishers

Chesterton110 years since it was published, Heretics hasn’t lost a great deal of its significance.

In-situ, Heretics is a sum of careful considerations rendered at a time of significant change. Although his one hundred year old addresses easily convey to a modern reader, a sense of prophetic poignancy, Chesterton’s insights aren’t compromised by it. He is still a man writing for his own times. A simple example of this is that Chesterton is as critical of progressives as he is of aristocracy, and yet he is neither against progress nor entirely against the existence of an aristocrat. His concern is with the true and false definitions.

This is perhaps more clearer in the final chapter of Heretics than anywhere else:

‘The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed […] Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. (p.163)

Chesterton’s conclusions seek to follow some of the logic of his day to their eventual ends. Mocking selectively, he unapologetically points out their inadequacies, lamenting that a time may come when the consequential absurdity that follows them might actually be given free reign. In fact, judging by the overall tone of Heretics it’s something Chesterton sees as already starting to happen.

On Bigotry:

‘Bigotry may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions. It is the resistance offered to definite ideas by that vague bulk of people whose ideas are indefinite to excess. Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent. This frenzy of the indifferent is in truth a terrible thing; it has made all monstrous and widely pervading persecutions.’ (pp. 158-159)
‘Bigotry in the main has always been the pervading omnipotence of those who do not care, crushing out those who care, in darkness and blood…Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas. He is acquainted with ideas, and moves among them like a lion-tamer. Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas.’(p.159)

On Art:

‘It is healthful to every sane man to utter the art within him; it is essential to every sane man to get rid of the art within him at all costs’ (p.129)
‘All the art of all the artists looked tiny and tedious beside the art which was a by-product of propaganda […] Originality is disagreement with others’ (p.155)
‘A small artist is content with art; a great artist is content with nothing except everything.’ (p.155)
‘The men and women who have really been the bold artists, the realistic artists, the uncompromising artists, are the men who have turned out, after all, to be writing “with a purpose.” (p.155)
‘When we want any art tolerably brisk and bold we have to go to the doctrinaires.’ (p.156)

On Literary Criticism:

‘It need hardly be said that this is the real explanation of the thing which has puzzled so many dilettante critics, the problem of the extreme ordinariness of the behaviour of so many great geniuses in history. Their behaviour was so ordinary that it was not recorded; hence it was so ordinary that it seemed mysterious. Hence people say that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare…The explanation is simple enough; it is that Shakespeare had a real lyrical impulse, wrote a real lyric, and so got rid of the impulse and went about his business. Being an artist did not prevent him from being an ordinary man.’ (p.130)

On Democracy:

‘Democracy is not philanthropy; it is not even altruism or social reform. Democracy is not founded on pity for the common man; democracy is founded on reverence for the common man, or, if you will, even on fear of him.’ (p.143)
‘Nothing can be more dangerous than to found a social philosophy on any theory which is debatable but has not been debated.’ (p.153)
‘If a man or woman convinces us at all, it should be by his or her convictions.’ (p.156)

On Dogmatics:

‘When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.’ (p.153).
‘No man ought to write at all, or even to speak at all, unless he thinks he is in truth and the other man in error.’ (p.154)
‘Dogmatism is the founding of a system.’ (p.154)
‘Heresy is the intellectual poisoning of a whole people, in which only a prosperous and prominent man would be likely to be successful. The evil of aristocracy is not that it necessarily leads to the infliction of bad things or the suffering of sad ones; the evil of aristocracy is that it places everything in the hands of a class of people who can always inflict what they can never suffer.’ (p.147)
‘The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be thought “dogmatic,” for instance, in some circles accounted progressive, to assume the perfection or improvement of man in another world. But it is not thought “dogmatic” to assume the perfection or improvement of man in this world; though that idea of progress is quite as unproved as the idea of immortality, and from a rationalistic point of view quite as improbable. [For example] we see the full frenzy of those who killed themselves to find the sepulchre of Christ. But being in a civilization which does believe in this dogma of fact for facts’ sake, we do not see the full frenzy of those who kill themselves to find the North Pole.’ (p.162)
[Memorable quote:] ‘Some hold the undemonstrable dogma of the existence of God; some the equally undemonstrable dogma of the existence of the man next door.’ (p.163)

On Poverty:

most of our realists and sociologists talk about a poor man as if he were an octopus or an alligator.’ (p.147)
‘The missionary comes to tell the poor man that he is in the same condition with all men. The journalist comes to tell other people how different the poor man is from everybody else.’ (p.148)

On Philosophy:

‘If we talk of a certain thing being an aspect of truth, it is evident that we claim to know what is truth; just as, if we talk of the hind leg of a dog, we claim to know what is a dog. Unfortunately, the philosopher who talks about aspects of truth generally also asks, ‘What is truth?” Frequently even he denies the existence of truth, or says it is inconceivable by the human intelligence.’ (p.157)
‘It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.’ (p.157)

Chesterton walks along the edge of poignancy. His wit and quips land closer to sharp and reasoned criticism than they do to a flippant, mournful, petulant rejection of his subject matter. Chesterton has widely read and thought about the material he is addressing.

G.K. Chesterton’s voice, although slightly worn and visibly dated in some aspects, still remains as confronting as it did when he first put pen to paper.

That parallels can be proven to exist between the then and the now shows the longevity of Chesterton’s broad intellect, the broad impact of his ability to laugh and courage to speak out.

‘Eternity is the eve of something…Our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, “to be continued…” (pp.125 & 102)

Source:

Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

Related posts:

The Most Agreeable Elements Of Chesterton’s HeReTiCs: Numero Uno

The Most Agreeable Elements Of Chesterton’s HeReTiCs: Numero Dos

Gilbert_with_Wife_FrancesHere is the final sum of highlights mined from Heretics.

This is by no means definitive. What it does, though, is outline the tone, momentum and edge. From which Chesterton engraved an unmistakable mark into the hard surface of arrogance and happy ignorance.

What is presented here are, in my opinion, some of the most pointed aspects of Heretics.

These points, more than any others, is why I’m  growing to be as much a fan of Heretics as I am of Orthodoxy. Heretics may not introduce Chesterton’s theology as brilliantly as Orthodoxy does, in the end though it doesn’t matter. The essence is there. It is in the poetic phrases and witty criticisms

Chesterton’s thoughts on humility, nations, family, pathos, science and faith, all signify the value of this work to a contemporary audience.

On Humility:

‘The whole secret of the practical success of Christendom lies in the Christian humility, however imperfectly fulfilled. For with the removal of all question of merit or payment, the soul is suddenly released for incredible voyages.’ (p.34)
‘Humility is not merely too good for this world; it is too practical for this world; I had almost said it is too worldly for this world.’ (p.35)
‘It is the humble man who does the big things. It is the humble man who does the bold things.’ (p.36)
‘The worship of [human] success ends in mere mediocrity; its followers are foredoomed to become slaves and cowards.’ (p.61)
‘To the humble person, and to that humble person alone, the sun is really a sun; the sea is really a sea.’ (p.87)
‘The ultimate psychological truth, the foundation of Christianity, is that no man or woman is a hero to himself. Oliver Cromwell, according to Carlyle, was a strong man. According to Cromwell, he was a weak one.’ (p.87)

On Nations and The Family:

‘Nationality exists, and has nothing in the world to do with race.’ (p.95)
‘A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises. It is, in the most literal sense of the words, a society for the prevention of Christian knowledge. We can see this change, for instance, in the modern transformation of the thing called a club.’ (p.95)
‘The man or woman who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us […] It is a good thing for man or woman to live in a family in the same sense that it is a beautiful and delightful thing for a man or woman to be snowed up in a street. They are forced to realise that life is not a thing from outside, but a thing from inside.’ (p.99)

On Pathos:

‘The one genuinely dangerous and immoral way of drinking wine is to drink it as medicine…Drink because you are happy, never because you are miserable.’ (p.53)
‘Human emotions are never hard and never gem-like; they are always dangerous, like flames, to touch or even examine.’ (p.56)
‘For a hearty laugh it is necessary to have touched the heart. I do not know why touching the heart should always be connected with the idea of touching it to compassion or a sense of distress. The heart can be touched to joy and triumph and the heart can be touched to amusement.’ (p.110)
‘Were even the Puritans Stoics? The English Puritans repressed a good deal, but even they were too English to repress their feelings.’ (p.112)

On Science:

‘Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural.’ (p.50)
‘Science can analyse a pork-chop, and say how much of it is phosphorus and how much is protein; but science cannot analyse any man’s wish for a pork-chop, and say how much of it is hunger, how much custom, how much nervous fancy, how much a haunting love of the beautiful. The man’s desire for the pork-chop remains literally as mystical and ethereal as his desire for heaven.’ (p.76)
’Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich. The word “kleptomania” is a vulgar example of what I mean.’ (p.91)
‘Science is always by its nurture more solemn and austere than religion.’ (p.115)
‘To use a thing in vain means to use it without use.’ (p.117)
‘In the modern world solemnity [by way of grave and verbose writers (p.118)] is the direct enemy of sincerity.’ (p.119)
‘Science means specialism, and specialism means oligarchy […] the expert is more aristocratic than the aristocrat [and] if we look at the progress of our scientific civilization we see a gradual increase everywhere of the specialist.’ (p.121)

On Faith:

‘A man or woman who has faith must be prepared not to be a martyr, but to be a fool.’ (p.49)
‘Whatever may be the meaning of faith; it must always mean a certainty about something we cannot prove. Thus, for instance, we believe by faith in the existence of other people.’ (p.85)
‘Faith is unfashionable, and it is customary on every side to cast against it the fact that it is a paradox (p.83). [But] Paradoxes are true(p.120) […] a paradox is not a frivolous thing, but a very serious thing; it simply means a certain defiant joy which belongs to belief. I should regard any civilization which was without a universal habit of uproarious dancing as being, from the full human point of view, a defective civilization. And I should regard any mind which had not got the habit in one form or another of uproarious thinking as being, from the full human point of view, a defective mind.’ (p.123)

Some of his criticisms aren’t as cutting to a modern reader. Such as his rebuttal to H.G Wells, F. Nietzsche, or Rudyard Kipling and the Ex-Catholic Priest, Joseph McCabe. All seem overly wordy and lack absolute clarification about the context of Chesterton’s criticisms.The modern reader is then left a little shell-shocked, having to piece together fragments of Chesterton’s commentary in order to completely understand the significance of certain criticisms. In some respects it’s like wading through a fog with only Chesterton’s humour laced voice to guide the way – step here, tread there, no wait, go back, this way, not that.

It’s this trail, however, that makes Heretics what it is: a tour of an era, high on the belle époque of pre-WW1 humanism. Chesterton isn’t out to impress anyone. This is the one endearing tone of Heretics that rises higher than the rest. Honest, sometimes humorous and broad thought encapsulates its real value. In spite of the limitations Chesterton looks towards the precipice ahead. Pointing, with pipe and pint in hand, he then resoundingly argues that the trajectory of human pride ends, not in victory, but in a tragic free-fall from a fast approaching ledge.


Source:

Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

Related posts:

The Most Agreeable Elements Of Chesterton’s HeReTiCs: Numero Uno

G.K. Chesterton’s War & Parker J. Palmer’s Objection To Objectivity

You Don’t Have To Be A Progressive, To Be For Progress

G.K Chesterton’s Resolve (Or, Early Gastronomic Activism)

Image: Gilbert and Frances Chesterton Creative Commons

G.K. Chesterton Recording @ The BBCIt’s unique to find a British writer from the early 20th Century, who says things as Gilbert does.

Heretics doesn’t flow as well as Orthodoxy. (Which was published in 1908; three years later).

What’s he taking aim at?

Why, it’s pesky inconsistent aristocrats, self-absorbed intellectuals, scientism, self-important writers, progressiveness-{ness}-{ness}, Nietzschean ideology, ignoring the truth of paradoxes, and among other things, something that H.G Wells said about a modernist Utopia.

Here’s post one outlining ten quotes that are, by and large, the most agreeable and challenging elements of HeReTiCs.

 

1. On Progress:

‘The weakness of all Utopias is this, they take the greatest difficulty of humanity and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller difficulties. Mr [H.G] Wells asserts that Utopia must be a world-state, or else people might make war on it. It does not seem to occur to them that, for a good many of us, if it were a world-state we should still make war on it to the end of the world. For if we admit that there must be varieties in art or opinion what sense is there in thinking there will not be varieties in Government? The fact is very simple. Unless you are going deliberately prevent a thing from being good, you cannot prevent it being worth fighting for. It is impossible to prevent a possible conflict of civilizations, because it is impossible to prevent a possible conflict between ideals. If there were no longer our modern strife between nations, there would only be strife between Utopias.’ (p.19)
‘It does not so very much matter whether a man eats a grilled tomato or a plain tomato; it does very much matter whether he eats a plain tomato with a grilled mind.’(p.28)
‘If there really be anything of the nature of progress, it must mean, above all things, the careful study and assumption of the whole of the past.’ (p.89)
‘The wrong is not that engines are too much admired, but that they are not admired enough. The sin is not that engines are mechanical, but that humans are [become] mechanical.’ (p.126)

2. On Being:

‘Positivism is the worship of humanity.’ (p.48)
‘So long as a tree is a tree, it does not frighten us at all. It begins to be something alien, to be something strange, only when it looks like ourselves. When a tree really looks like a man our knees knock under us. And when the whole universe looks like a man we fall on our faces.’ (p.81)
‘Our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, “to be continued…” (p.102)
‘Frederick Nietzsche, attributes to the strong man that scorn against weakness which only exists among invalids.’ (p.104)
‘A great man is not a man so strong that he feels less than other men; he is a man so strong that he feels more. And when Nietzsche says, “a new commandment I give to you, ‘be hard,’ he is really saying, “a new commandment I give to you, ‘be dead.’” Sensibility is the definition of life.’ (p.105)
‘When Jesus Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it.’ (p.110)

3. On Intellectualism:

‘Many eminent, and deservedly eminent, modern novelists must accept responsibility for having supported the worst form of snobbishness – an intellectual snobbishness.’ (p.105)
‘The kind of man who had the courage to write so badly in the one case is the kind of man who would have the courage to write so well in the other.’ (p.110)

4. On Moralism:

‘When we are seeking for the real merits of a man it is unwise to go to his enemies, and much more foolish to go to himself.’ (p.19)
‘What is the good of telling a community that it has every liberty except the liberty to make laws? The liberty to make laws is what constitutes a free people. And what is the good of telling a man (or a philosopher) that he has every liberty except the liberty to make generalisations. Making generalisations is what makes him a man.’ (p.28)
‘A man or a woman must be something of a moralist if he, or she, is to preach unmorality’ (p.126)

5. On Hope:

‘The man who said, “blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed,” put the eulogy quite inadequately and even falsely. The truth is: “Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised.’ (p.32)
‘Like all the Christian virtues, hope, is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.’ (p.62)
‘Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.’ (p.84)

The more I think about these, the more I’m made aware of Chesterton’s forward-thinking insight and rapier wit. His work is rarely boring. His references are slightly dated now and skipping over them can mean having them taken dangerously out of context.

Still, Heretics stands.

It is where Chesterton shows he’s not one for being boxed into any ideological  or literary straightjacket.


Source:

Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

Related posts:

G.K. Chesterton’s War & Parker J. Palmer’s Objection To Objectivity

You Don’t Have To Be A Progressive, To Be For Progress

G.K Chesterton’s Resolve (Or, Early Gastronomic Activism)

Image: BBC.co.uk

 

Some notes and handouts from today’s ‘God, life and the world around us’ session. This year I’ve been working our homeschool team through Luke’s historiographical accounts in The Gospel of Luke and Acts.

Today’s lesson was centred around Monday’s encounter with some content in an Usborne Reader, my ongoing journey through Chesterton’s, ‘Heretics’ and Acts 20.

It still leaves me gobsmacked when different, seemingly unrelated subjects like this align.

‘So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock-His church, purchased with His own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert.’
– (Acts 20:28-30, NLT & ESV)

Fox and the crow

Chesterton Quote1


Sources:

Chesterton, G.K 1905 Heretics, p.108

Mackinnon, M. 2007 Fox and The Crow, Usborne Children’s Books Usborne Publishing Ltd.

Illustrated by Rocio Mertinez

ID-10075802G.K Chesterton and educational expert Parker J. Palmer might seem like unlikely conversation partners. However, the former draws lines that help frame the concerns of the latter.

As Palmer views it, the ire against subjectivism permeates our world. This, largely, academic angst, favours the glowing promise it sees in objectivism. The problem, according to Palmer, is that objectivism by itself fails. This is because objectivism enforces detachment over and against subjective intimacy.

Palmer lays out his point clearly and with bite: objectivism is objectivity gone mad; ‘no scientist knows the world merely by holding it at arm’s length’ (Palmer, p.55) [i].

Yes. ‘Objectivism set out to put truth on firmer ground than the whims of princes and priests, and for that we can be grateful. But history is full of ironies, and one of them is the way objectivism has bred new versions of the same evils it tried to correct. Two examples come to mind: the rise of modern dictatorships and the character [capacity to kill at great remove] of modern warfare’ (Ibid, pp.53 & 54)

Chesterton’s frame around this is in his discussion on the difference between the globe-trotter and the peasant.

‘He [the globetrotter] is always breathing, an air of locality. London is a place, to be compared to Chicago; Chicago is a place, to be compared to Timbuctoo. But Timbuctoo is not a place, since there, at least, live men who regard it as the universe, and breathe, not an air of locality, but the winds of the world. The man in the saloon steamer has seen all the races of men, and he is thinking of the things that divide men— diet, dress, decorum, rings in the nose as in Africa, or in the ears as in Europe, blue paint among the ancients, or red paint among the modern Britons.’ (Heretics)[ii]

The peasant however,

‘Has seen nothing at all; but he is thinking of the things that unite men— hunger and babies, and the beauty of women, and the promise or menace of the sky.’[iii]

Chesterton paints a picture of those who have become obsessed with empirical perfectionism; those who have lost touch with their subject, ergo, also themselves and a sense of reality. What follows is Chesterton’s solemn prediction that in due time there will be an ‘inevitable war between the microscopic and the telescopic.’[iv]

It might be that the war Chesterton foresees is a battle between progressives and conservatives; one side a stranger to the other, detached from relationship; no longer respectful opponents, but the bitterest of enemies.

It’s here that Chesterton’s connection to Palmer’s objections stands out:

‘The rolling stone rolls echoing from rock to rock; but the rolling stone is dead. The moss is silent because the moss is alive.’[v]

The difference between the moss and the rolling stone is that one is alive, the other isn’t.

Which side of politics is determined to be the rolling stone or the moss is a matter for debate. It seems evident enough, though, that progressive ideology and its servants appear to be more akin to the rolling stone.

‘It is inspiriting without doubt to whizz in a motor-car round the earth, to feel Arabia as a whirl of sand or China as a flash of rice-fields. But Arabia is not a whirl of sand and China is not a flash of rice-fields. They are ancient civilizations with strange virtues buried like treasures. If we wish to understand them it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets. To conquer these places is to lose them. [vi]

In other words, it’s equal with losing an appreciation for the music and mystery of the forest. Replacing it with a stoic view of the forest; its inhabitants, now catalogued, tagged and dissected, have been rendered lifeless.

The forest effectively conquered, is, as Chesterton said, the forest effectively lost.

Palmer’s and Chesterton’s themes are linked by their challenge to the worship of objectivism and blind allegiance to subjectivism. They focus attention on the dangers of preferencing one over the other.

As Palmer notes:

‘’A good case can be made that objectivism, which intended to free people from the clutches of arbitrary power, has sometimes conspired with other forces to deliver modern people into the clutches of totalitarianism. As people became convinced that objective answers to all questions were possible – and as specialists emerged who were glad to give those answers – people began to distrust their own knowledge and turn to authorities for truth. Thus the stage was set for “authorities” with a political agenda to seize power at moments of social vulnerability’ (Palmer, pp.53-54)

This is Palmer’s objection to absolute objectivity.

It gets especially relevant when raised up against slander and malicious selectivity. A selectivity that has no regard for the double standard it just created or endorsed. As long as it gets what it wants and appears morally superior by doing it.

Such as, the abuse hurled at Christians, who vote against gay marriage with a reasoned and loving “no,” and yet are berated as extremists, hater’s et.al. The double standard goes unnoticed. Christians almost every day have to tolerate the intolerant misuse of the name, Jesus Christ, in a large part of the workplace, society, and the entertainment that society sells.

Those seeking balance are quickly shamed into silence. For the progressives nothing but total, blind loyalty is accepted; all disagreement is unwelcome and usually punished. The irony is that such intolerance is of little consequence to those who pride themselves on their own stand against intolerance.

As for historical examples: consider Trotsky’s exile and later execution. Alongside Stalin’s photo shopped rewrite of Russian history, which sought to erase Trotsky in order to seal Stalin’s authority.

Both sides of the political spectrum are open to the temptation of overemphasising subjectivity or objectivity. I’m not arguing that they don’t. What I am suggesting is that Chesterton and Palmer both identify a problem when servitude to progressive ideology becomes, win-at-any-cost. Here we find the rumblings of protest against a total reliance on ‘hard science’ and the disempowering of that which is called ‘soft science.’ (Palmer, p.54)

For academics an ‘overemphasis on objectivity is engrained in technique and method.’ (Palmer)

In contrast, for non-academics, the imbalance between the objective and subjective leans more towards an overemphasis on the subjective.

Even so, the modernist ire against subjectivism favours the glowing promise they see in objectivism. Consequently, it’s impacting every part of our post-everything milieu.

Among the more recent and raw examples includes the industrial scale slaughter of unborn babies. The sole objective view justifies the violent removal of a baby from the mother’s womb. It does this by hiding facts and redefining the language, in order to further detach citizens from the truth and its reality.

If Palmer is right about the dangers of an overemphasis on objectivity, then there needs to be a balance; as in a speech that has balanced Aristotle’s logos, ethos and pathos. We are less likely to get lost, be convoluted or seem lifeless. Without this balance, we will remain worn down, detached and divided. Finding ourselves looking down the barrel towards Chesterton’s war between the telescopists and the microscopists, where through coercion rather than persuasive, reasoned debate, we are enslaved to human ideas and insecurity. Sentenced to constantly second guess ourselves and reject truths that have been proven trustworthy. This impact on our thinking affects how we vote, what we learn, who we listen to and ultimately, who we will serve.


Sources:

[i] Palmer, P.J. 1998 The Courage to Teach: “A Culture Of Fear” Jossey-Bass

[ii] Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

[iii] Ibid. p.24

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

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