I am told that Renovare Book Club has Chesterton's Orthodoxy on the list for this year. I no longer have a copy, or at leat cannot find it at present, but the quote one is looking for is usually easy to track down on Chesterton, as his fans are a committed bunch who want to make sure the word gets out. I imagine it is in Gutenberg at this point, if I wanted to check. (I should, actually, shouldn't I, as I am going to a conference in Montreat next week about the Bible's influence on English writers.)
I liked The Everlasting Man better, or at least I have returned to it more often, but Orthodoxy has its own power. Chesterton always surprises, starting in an unexpected place that one sees immediately is a fine launch point for the key parts of a discussion. In setting out what he plans to do in describing his philosophy...well, better to let him say how he came to his belief
How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?...We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.
The world is both strange and home, and any philosophy of life needs to give some explanation for that. I would never have thought to start there myself, yet apprehend immediately that it will eventually bring in all the right pieces.
Both works are brilliant; flawed only as he himself was flawed, and so emphatically and obviously that the flaws are easy to recognize and set aside. Yet I think Orthodoxy is the better work: just "The Ethics of Elfland" and "The Flag of the World" alone are some of the best things ever written on the subject.
Exactly what 'the subject' is, however, is harder to say. It is a sort of phenomenology of encountering the world, becoming desensitized to how strange it is, and then trying to re-discover it; a kind of ethical argument that derives rules from nature and pledges loyalty to them; and an exploration of whether mythic/fairy-tale forms or logic are better tools for navigating as world as strange as this one is.
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