Happy birthday G. K. Chesterton!

Today is G. K. Chesterton’s 137th birthday (May 29, 1874). To celebrate, I thought I’d offer this outstanding analogy from the beginning of Orthodoxy, one of his most famous works. (For more on his life and significance, check out this post from Billy Cash.)

I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?

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About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 29, 2011, in The Modern Church, Theology. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Reading the name “G.K.Chersterton” anywhere, for me, has all the effect of hearing news from a much-loved uncle whom I have never met and yet has corresponded with me for years.

    He was a very funny man. In “What I Saw in America” (1922) he writes about another country “where the police looked so like brigands that one wondered what the brigands looked like.” The whole piece is rather funny, actually, and worth a read.

  1. Pingback: What’d I miss? « Nate Navigates the Bible

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