- File Size: 492 KB
- Print Length: 406 pages
- Publisher: Ignatius Press (October 20, 2011)
- Publication Date: October 20, 2011
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005XQ97SM
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Just so with the non-fiction, but to a smaller degree, for non-fiction cannot help belonging to a period, and being, in that sense, hopelessly dated. Here again, though, it happens that the particular period of GKC (Edwardian England) and our particular period have a great deal in common, and nowhere is this more evident than when reading GKC. Of course, no one is going to pick up a random book and just start reading, as they might a novel passed on by a friend. So three friends who are also friends of Chesterton's, if a century later, have ganged up to pass on their favorite bits. And yes, they are bits, for Chesterton was a master of the short essay-- yes short. In his own day, they were brief columns in newspapers, or a couple pages in magazines. Hmm, I'm thinking right about now, that might not be so bad. Most of the brief bits were later gathered into books, this being a way to sell books to readers who might have read a few columns and be thirsting for more.
So, oddly enough, anyone who quotes a short bit of Chesterton today probably got it from one of these longer collections of short bits. But who wants to track down all these non-fiction collections, which run into dozens of books in the case of such a prolific author? Someone needs to find the best brief bits in those books and drag them into one book. Someone has. Or rather, three someones have. Three someones pulled together 67 favorite bits into this 380 plus page collection (yes that averages to about 5 or so pages each), and, as in the newspapers of a hundred years ago (and some later), put them once again in the view of the casual reader. Not only that, you get brief introductions by the three someones as to why they love these essays.
I also love the essay, and was first introduced to it in "On Lying in Bed" (which ranks, I might add, as one of the best essays I've ever read). But decide for yourself, it's no. 8 in this volume. Which, incidentally, is ideal for those who've read some GKC novels and wonder if they dare try the non-fiction, and if so, where to start? Readers absolutely new to GKC might get addicted to not only Chesterton, but the form of the essay. And as for those of us who already have both addictions, we simply say "Thank You".
G.K. Chesterton is [probably] the most Sane man that has ever lived, and yet he has a heart as playful as a child’s.
His philosophy takes literally that perplexing saying of Jesus, “Whoever humbles himself like [a] child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”(Matt. 18:3). One would think Christ was speaking of Chesterton for he has an unparalleled imagination, wit, frivolity, hilarity, humor, and most of all—child-like wonder. He can take the most lofty and verbose fallacies of our age and deconstruct them with a child-like common sense (which he would call “un-common sense.”)
His favorite weapon is the paradox, in which he exposes the blindness in our sight (catch the paradox?), and utterly demolishes the ideological demagogues of our age with a hearty laugh. He likes to fight heresy with humor.
A Sense of Wonder
In one sane parable, entitled Tremendous Trifles, he tells a story about two men, Peter and Paul; one who desired to become a giant and travel the world, and the other who desired to become a pigmy and travel his back-yard. It is the giant who has paradoxically made everything small, and the pigmy that has paradoxically made everything big; Chesterton is that pigmy who has made himself small so that he can super-size the adventure he can have in the world. He makes the fantastic observation,
“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”
An Adventure, Rightly Considered
In another sane essay, entitled On Running After One’s Hat, he makes the riotous deduction, “Now a man could, if he felt rightly in the matter, run after his hat with the manliest ardour and the most sacred joy. He might regard himself as a jolly huntsman pursuing a wild animal, for certainly no animal could be wilder. In fact, I am inclined to believe that hat-hunting on windy days will be the sport of the upper classes in the future.” Then he concludes after his philosophically funny generalizations about running after one’s hat,
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
Please, just let that quote revolutionize every uncomfortable encounter, lost direction, or “inconvenience” in your life into a cheerful adventure (as it has mine).
On Lying in Bed
But above all his other short works, On Lying in Bed is the most priceless piece of humor that you will read today (if you so choose.) He begins, “Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling…” What?! You just have to read it, and seriously it is Sane, because his conclusion is that when lying in bed you must do it for no other reason at all; he wants us to have principled leisure where we live not as utilitarians (doing everything as a means to another material end), but as Christians (who do things as ends in themselves to gain the ultimate end of happiness with God.)
A common complaint about the writings of G.K. Chesterton is that he is too hard to understand, because he uses words like “sophistry.” Please endure the short amount of what appears to be “sophistry” by looking up these words and carefully reading, for in the end you will reap dividends of laughter and above all—sanity. Oftentimes Chesterton makes serious points in an unserious way, for we often won’t listen to sanity in plain language, so he uses foolish language in order to expose what is truly “sophistry” in our thinking.
He does write from a Catholic standpoint so if you are an atheist or agnostic, it is exceedingly likely you will disagree with what he has to say about various issues, so you have been warned. I do believe at the very least that he will get you to think, even if you ultimately disagree with him.
I wish I would have discovered Chesterton earlier but as they say, better late than never. Give this one a read. I dont' think you will regret it.