G.K. Chesterton

I should get to writing my Roswell Journals, as I won’t be living here much longer. But I have nothing to say about Roswell. It has remained the same to me, a place I’m not that fond of. My life instead resides in my home and in my mind. I have few friends and want to keep it that way. In fact, if I were to give in to my natural desires, I would find a better friend in death authors than the people around me. This is entirely my fault, and I own up to my deficient nature.

G.K. Chesterton happens to be one of my dead author friends whose books I’m currently reading. I should say that I’m always reading Chesterton because I read bits and pieces of his writing between other books. Most recently, I’m reading Orthodoxy. Chesterton is the type of writer I would add to my reading inside my biased worldview folder. Years ago, he wrote of the same world I live in today. He had a grasp on the modern world in its dullest heights — or its loftiest heights; I’m not really sure. And he seemed to suffer from the same prejudices as I do these hundred years later.

Take this quote for a start:

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.

This idea has borne itself out time and again in the last century. Modern materialist culture is neurotic. People are miserable. Of course, this is in part owing to the lack of expectations young people have placed on them. They need expectations of the old-fashioned kind, such as celibacy until marriage, eventual and hopefully early marriage, children, and carrying on the family faith. This is a life rife for the imagination because it takes courage to believe these important elements matter, that everything will be all right if we do what we should and put our fate in the hands of an eternal creator. When neuroticism is squelched through normal living, it’s much easier to walk the balance of believing in practical solutions and miraculous ones. In general, neuroticism creates bad art.

Materialism leads to rationalism leads to neuroticism leads to bad art and miserable humans. That is my opinion, and it has been my opinion for some time. It’s better to avoid the arts altogether if you are overly analytical; however, I do add the caveat that analytical people can be imaginative. The problem is analytical imagination takes a high working IQ that can itself lead to problems, albeit not neuroticism. These people are rather going to suffer from an excess of frustration at not being believed or understood. Or they will just have a grand sense of humor. It would be good if they could aim for the latter. They are, however, such a small percentage of the population that it wouldn’t be worth it to write advice columns for them.

Chesterton does concede that miserable poets do exist and, in fact, these miserable poets have been infected with rationality. He particularly highlights Poe and Cowper. This is where I know I’m reading in my worldview rather than experiencing new thought. He says about Cowper:

Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination.

I can’t disagree with that. Calvinist thinking has always struck me as being of the most miserable kind, and I’ve no doubt written about Cowper’s misery here on the blog. This blog started out, years ago, as an 18th C history blog, so it’s highly likely. And while I like Cowper’s hymns, it can’t be denied that he was a miserable and mad man. But being of a mindset more inclined to a Chesterton — or, in Cowper’s day, of a Samuel Johnson, lending a hand or a bit of advice to a Cowper (although in his day, it was Christopher Smart).

It’s almost inevitable for madness to ensue if one’s faith is too far gone toward the route of rationalism. Although God certainly created logic, God’s logic is not entirely understood by us mere mortals. When we believe it can and should be, and that furthermore, this is how we approach God, we will fail. But if anyone wants to be contentious about this, go ahead. I’m sure the easy out would be to claim that no human is actually rational at all and therein lies the problem.

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10 comments

  1. I’ve maintained that humans are truly logical in small doses, and about very specific things. It’s not meant as a means of survival, but only for addressing certain material tasks. Modern men go insane because they are trying to apply logic to things he can’t fully account for, which is anything a few feet past his senses or immediate attentions (like the book he is reading), or anything outside his physical domain (a few streets outside his neighborhood). That’s it.

    I haven’t read any of Ted Kaczynski books yet, but lately he seems to be enturely vindicated in his disdain for the modern technological society. I post this from my laptop.

  2. I was working in Texas last winter then got into something in Arizona so I drove my dump truck thru Roswell and thought about reaching out but didn’t. I didn’t like Roswell much either from what I saw. I was only there a day. I thought it had Area 51 nearby but I was wrong. New Mexico is quite a bit better than Texas tho imo. I think orthodoxy was the first catholic book I read but he wasn’t catholic when he wrote it. Have you heard of Shasuku Endo? He’s a Jap catholic novelist. I just got two of his books from the library.

    1. Roswell is really grasslands like West Texas. So it has agriculture and oil and is super flat and definitely not that pretty in winter. It’s not terrible here. It’s one of the only red areas of New Mexico…but it’s just not my home.

  3. Maybe you can tell me if I’m going mad. If there was a rich father with many children. Would allow a serial killer to live in his guest room? Then why does God allow the devil to wander the world seeking the ruin of souls (and succeeding since most people end up in hell). Why is it called victory in Jesus when most of God’s children are damned? I would say that with God being omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent everyone has to go to heaven, but the Bible says most people are damned. So now what

    1. This is why I had a hard time believing in the eternal torment doctrine. It used to bother me a lot. But being that every orthodox Christian group believes in it, it’s hard to justify rejecting it altogether. I think it comes down to recognizing that I don’t fully understand God’s logic or his sense of justice. I think it comes down to what people invite in their lives, and whether they are humble before God. Some people simply won’t humble themselves before God at all. I think you can see this in the story of the two thieves that were sentenced to die along with Jesus. One mocked the savior, and the other one recognized Jesus as savior, knew that he [the thief] had done wrong and begged Jesus for mercy. Let’s be honest. Humans make their own choices to do wrong. They don’t need the devil to whisper lies in their ears. They already lie to themselves and willfully choose to reject their creator.

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