I sat in a velvety brown chair and surveyed the scene.

Chalk board-ish signs were decorated, marking the beginning of our holiday season with their advertisements of gingery and eggnogy lattes. It smelled like cinnamon and coffee in the little shop and it was warm and cozy. I sipped my americano. You drink way too much coffee, I told myself, way too much. I opened my book and read.... two words.

I was interrupted by the intelligent looking man next to me who proceeded to start a discussion about the book I held in my hands. I was reading Orthodoxy (again), by Chesterton. He wanted to know my views on Protestantism and Greek and Roman orthodoxy and Christianity: all so similar, yet possessing some tenants so widely different. What a topic. Then he went on to tell me, in his French accent, that he has (supposedly) been a professor at three different acclaimed universities and how he is writing a book on the subject of-- orthodoxy, of all things. After that long interesting conversation, I was able to pick up my book again. These are my favorite, favorite passages taken from chapter five from my reading:

On life and this world:

I felt economical about the stars as if they were sapphires (they are called so in Milton's Eden): I hoarded the hills. For the universe is a single jewel, and while it is a natural cant to talk of a jewel as peerless and priceless, of this jewel it is literally true. This cosmos is indeed without peer and without price: for there cannot be another one.

No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world: but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on. Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a Christian to die to it?

The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.

On death by suicide:

Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.

...[He] insults everything on earth. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.

Obviously a suicide is the opposite of a martyr. A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end... In other words, the martyr is noble, exactly because he confesses this ultimate link with life; he sets his heart outside himself: he dies that something may live. The suicide is ignoble because he has not this link with being: he is a mere destroyer; spiritually, he destroys the universe.

. . .

Simply beautiful.

1 comment:

Ted said...

That bit by Chesterton on suicide is excellent,

"...[He] insults everything on earth. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer."

Chesterton said, in a different article, something similar:

"One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance."