Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A bit more on paradox by way of Chesterton

Continuing where I started on Sunday, the theme of paradox, of becoming who I am, of my restlessness, etc., I take up this morning some words from Chesterton, found in the fourth chapter of Orthodoxy, entitled The Flag of the World, that give some much needed clarity and common sense to this idea of becoming who I already am, a concept that can rapidly become esoteric and absurd. I have tried to show that becoming who I am is not an inward turn toward myself, but an outward turn toward the other. Only in this way do I overcome ego-centeredness, which the closest state-of-mind and being to hell in my own experience.

"Christianity came into the world," Chesterton wrote, "firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain." Therefore, he continues, "The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners."

Furthermore, Christianity cannot be reduced to mere morals and retain any of its meaning. Christian latitudinarians "represent that the remarkable thing about Christianity was that it was the first to preach simplicity or self-restraint, or inwardness and sincerity." Such opinions, Chesterton points out, are born of a deep ignorance. Rather, 'the remarkable thing about Christianity was that it was the first to preach Christianity. Its peculiarity was that it was peculiar, and simplicity and sincerity are not peculiar, but obvious ideals for all mankind." This leads back to Christianity as brimming with paradox: "Christianity was the answer to a riddle, not the last truism uttered after a long talk."

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