Web Log 2019.04.01
G. K. Chesterton
My friends give me books I don't know I need. One such gift was My friend Greg Sager's A Chesterton Anthology, selected and introduced by P. J. Kavanagh. The book was published in 1985 by The Bodley Head in Britain and by Ignatius Press in the US. Mr. Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874--1936) had a sense of paradox and surprise that I find irresistible both for its entertainment value and its insight.
As an example of his sense I offer an excerpt from Kavanagh's book from Chesterton's book Orthodoxy.
When I was a boy there were two curious men running about who were called the optimist and the pessimist. I constantly used the words myself, but I cheerfully confess that I never had any very special idea of what they meant. The only thing which might be considered evident was that they could not mean what they said; for the ordinary verbal explanation was that the optimist thought the world as good as it could be, while the pessimist thought it as bad as it could be. Both these statements being obviously raving nonsense, one had to cast about for other explanations. An optimist could not mean a man who thought everything right and nothing wrong. For that is meaningless; it is like calling everything right and nothing left. Upon the whole, I came to the conclusion that the optimist thought everything good except the pessimist, and that the pessimist thought everything bad, except himself. It would be unfair to omit altogether from the list the mysterious but suggestive definition said to have been given by a little girl, 'An optimist is a man who looks after your eyes, and a pessimist is a man who looks after your feet.' I am not sure that this is not the best definition of all. There is even a sort of allegorical truth in it. For there might, perhaps, be a profitable distinction drawn between that more dreary thinker who thinks merely of our contact with the earth from moment to moment, and that happier thinker who considers rather our primary power of vision and of choice of road.
Paradox and surprise were featured in my previous post to this space, although Chesterton's writings did not contribute to that. But I do need Greg's book as a reference because some of Chesterton's ideas will appear in future posts as I process his surprising views of balance. This is important because I see now that they inform the theme of my sequel to Diary of a Robot.
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