Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chesterson: Feeling Homesick at Home, the Basis of Christian Optimism

The subjects of pessimism and optimism have always interested me. I enjoyed G.K. Chesterson's take on the matter when I found it in his "Orthodoxy." The first paragraph of the sample below may not seem to be all that important, but if you go back and re-read it after digesting the whole thing you might appreciate the analogies a little more. The second paragraph gives me hope that my occasional feelings of being in the wrong place at the wrong time are not causes for despair but are indeed indicators of the joy we have in Christ.

I hope it brings you some hope.
"The fancy that the cosmos was not vast and void, but small and cosy, had a fulfilled significance now, for anything that is a work of art must be small in the sight of the artist; to God the stars might be only small and dear, like diamonds. And my haunting instinct that somehow good was not merely a tool to be used, but a relic to be guarded, like the goods from Crusoe’s ship—even that had been the wild whisper of something originally wise, for, according to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world."
"But the important matter was this, that it entirely reversed the reason for optimism. And the instant the reversal was made it felt like the abrupt ease when a bone is put back in the socket. I had often called myself an optimist, to avoid the too evident blasphemy of pessimism. But all the optimism of the age had been false and disheartening for this reason, that it had always been trying to prove that we fit in to the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do NOT fit in to the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the WRONG place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home." G.K. Chesterson "Orthodoxy", Chapter V


1 comment:

  1. Chesterton is full of gems like this. I could have a really long comment, but the biblical phrase, "in the world, but not of it" describes succinctly the Christian situation: We are sojourners, strangers in a strange land and our true home is ahead of us. Everyday, we struggle to keep moving forward, to not get distracted or seduced by those things which surround us, while at the same time, appreciating those gifts which God gives us, i.e. spouse, family, etc. to help us on our way.