Friday, April 19, 2013

G.K. Chesterton and Me..or, confessions of a failed lover

In response to Christie’s article at Everything to Someone, which reminds just how much beautiful diversity is in the world, even among kindred hearts.

First, some disclaimers:

1. I haven’t studied Chesterton in depth. Apart from Orthodoxy, The Man who was Thursday, The Flying Inn, most of What’s wrong with the World, bits of Father Brown, and articles shared by mutual friends, Chesterton and I are not well acquainted. He’s like that guy in college everyone wants you date, and you begin to suspect it’s just to get you in a relationship, you go to coffee and leave wondering “is it just because we’re both Catholic..because really who sees me with him?” But your friends mean well, and so - probably - does he. It’s just a missed connection. Chesterton is my missed connection. Our friends want us to get married and have a million babies, but I can’t even sit through coffee with him.

2. We are a missed connection, in part I think, because I’m already in love. Long before I was introduced to Chesterton, I met Soren Kierkegaard, who introduced me to Rainer Maria Rilke, who became my ultimate infatuation. Rilke and Kierkegaard spoke to me, nurtured in my heart the unreasonable love of beauty and magic that grew there, and made me long for kindness and charity in my thoughts. They are the soft-spoken poets, the artists who call out to God in low, rocking songs..leaving them for Chesterton’s loud company made me feel battered, unseen, and alone. He is the mocker, the one who seems to write against individuals and for the masses. They are the mocked, the lonely ones whom God nestles close - and I feel Chesterton’s judgment of them; he who calls on the ‘awful authority of the mob’ against my friends who remember that the mob “is nonsense - a sum of negative ones” of people who have given up themselves. We are starting at opposites and cannot find a place to meet.

3. Apart from this basic bias, I have others. I’m not a feminist, but I have - for better or worse, been influenced by feminism both within and without the Church -and Chesterton’s writing on women grates on me. It’s frustrating. It gives me the impression that he doesn’t see individuals so much as collectives. He has some lovely thoughts: Christie’s blog title being one of them, but the underlaying attitude - the argument for mediocrity in women, the tendency to idealize is something I struggle to read without judgment. I have a tendency to be overly harsh in my reading, I get bogged down in the details, and distracted by small frustrations. Chesterton gives me an abundance of details to pick at, and my reading derails.

 All that said, I know he’s popular with many, many good and holy people. He’s popular with people whose artistic-sense does connect with mine in a deep and beautiful way, whose respect for people as individuals is obvious. So I wonder, would I be more able to forgive him his flaws if I was more taken with his style, or if I had needed a friend in my own dream-like interior life? I still sometimes love his words out of context - many of them are good and true and uplifting. I want to use them sometimes like I want to use the words of other writers I know only lightly and dislike in passing; I don’t, for the most part, because it seems dishonest to borrow words from a man I don’t read.

G.K. Chesterton, in some ways, reminds me of a less saintly version of Padre Pio, a man God loves, a man the Church of God obviously loves, and yet a man I can’t help but dislike. I’m thankful for all the cases of saints disliking each other and arguing amongst themselves. Chesterton is not a saint, so I feel better rejecting him for his different vision and his harsh words. I remember reading ‘The Ethics of Elfland’ - Chesterton writes to tell me I “cannot imagine two and one not making three.” - I realized he wasn’t writing to me, or of me, and that his fairy is not mine. Because I can imagine it (which probably accounts for my failure in math class). And I immediately remembered the connection I felt with Kathleen Norris who has the same tendency to “focus on the fuzzy boundaries where definitions give way to metaphor” where numbers are not so dull as to always come out the same, where the dreams live and shift the world we see.

But I hope I don’t sound too harsh. Christie and Jenna (my dear blogging friends) have a different relationship to him. Christie obviously understands him better than I, she is closer in life and education to British thought, which is really, despite my love of Jane Austen and The Simple Things magazine, foreign to me in so many ways. Jenna is much better at reading critically in charity, and I think, much less self-focused than I am, and less likely to consider her own opinions sacrosanct. My brother - who is welcome to join the discussion on his own blog - is also a student of Chesterton, so I do know there is good there, and deep thought, and probably even charity. I doubt I’ll ever enjoy him, but I’ll try to humbly absorb your thoughts and let them warm my heart a little towards him.


  1. I'm flattered you think my opinion is a sign of 'goodness and deep thought.' :)

    I'll join into the full on discussion later; this requires some careful reflection, but right away I'd like to as how you can imagine two and one not making three (without simply changing what the words mean)? I ask because that's the type of example brought up by a lot of philosophers besides Chesterton as an example of axiomatic knowledge, so I'm interested to hear why you disagree.

    1. I guess I just don't see why there shouldn't be the possibility of something else creeping in..why one and two couldn't twist in the middle of the whole process and change. I like the idea of potential rising up - of five loaves and two fish adding up to more than seven bits of food and laughing at those who couldn't imagine it..

  2. This is how reading works, I think... a combination of words that simply pulls its weight in good work for one reader will jump out of the shadows, teeth and claws out, at another. I liked "the awful authority of a mob", not because I like mobs in general--quite the opposite, actually, I tend to think the mob is an unstable creature, liable to brutal insanity--but because the words came as part of the point about "the democracy of the dead", and as something of a traditionalist, I desperately want the people of the past to have a voice in the present.

    And I had never in all my days seen Chesterton as a mocker, though that may very well be my inner Jane Bennet coming out. I only saw him as playful. But I have never felt myself opposed to him, which makes all the difference.

    ...and yet you and Christie and I are all kindred spirits as far as I'm concerned, even though she and I love Chesterton and you cannot, and you and she love Tolkien and I cannot. It's funny and terrifying and sad and beautiful when like-souled readers respond so divergently to the same work. Although I admit I'm still mad as heck that my sister loved the Hunger Games books and thought they were "realistic" but said The Goose Girl was "dark". I just don't understand it. :P

    1. I know, and I'm thrilled to know people who are kindred spirits, but not clones..It's making me so much more kind and tolerant in the best sense..and teaching me to see more value in authors I wouldn't value at first read!

      I'm completely horrified that your sister loved the Hunger Games & thought they were realistic..they were too negative for me to finish! And I like darkness..just not darkness with no light at all!

  3. I like Chesterton but he is a bit dense to read, if you know what I mean. He may be mocking but I think it's more of a gentle mocking geared to prod people to think & re-evaluate things. Plus, he seems to spend a lot of time mocking himself.

    He was an astute observer of his age & in many ways I think highly prophetic about our time as well. But I think Lewis is much more highly accessible & gives you a lot of the same commentary & prophecy as Chesterton does.

    1. Chesterton seems..very English. Not dense the way Kierkegaard is dense - all wrapped in melancholy, or the way John Paul II is dense - with circles and weavings. I don't know how to describe him properly..

      I agree that Lewis is full of the a similar commentary - I prefer Lewis..He comes off as kinder in general..I'm sure Chesterton is self-mocking too, but (and this is probably just my bias speaking) it always reminded me of that girl who says "Oh I look just awful today!" only in order to be contradicted..I'm sure it's not that sort of mockery...and it's unkind to assume, but it does color my reading for certain.

    2. Lewis was very much informed by Chesterton's thought, and he makes a much more systematic, scholarly, un-emotional case for Chesterton's claims. There's the difference there, between Chesterton's profession and Lewis's. Chesterton was a journalist, and Lewis was a scholar. GKC would be the first to disclaim any sort of expertise in philosophy and theology. Though, that wasn't exactly Lewis's field of scholarship, either, which is why Tolkien didn't think Lewis should engage in apologetics and philosophy. He sure could be ornery, that one! So like Gandalf!

  4. Excellent introduction!

    I know what you mean about people pushing you toward someone; for me, that's an instant turn-off. So much of my and Jenna's affection for Chesterton seems to come from the fact that we hadn't been raised in Catholic-saturated environments. You went to a Catholic uni, right Masha? Mine was Catholic in name only. When I discovered Chesterton he was an archaic secret. When I brought him up to professors and fellow students, they either hadn't heard of him of were like, "Hm, yeah, I seem to remember . . ."

    I haven't read Kierkegaard, and Rilke I've read sparingly. He was tainted somewhat by the anti-Christian poetry professor, who gave me Letters to a Young Poet, so I involuntarily call up remembered feelings of betrayal and depression when I handle that book. I'm snobby and territorial with my authors; like, I don't want non-believers to hijack them and make them forcibly support their claims and beliefs (which is a double-standard because I Christianize non-Christian themes and authors all the time!). Part of why I like Chesterton is that it's nearly impossible for non-believers to do that; he's too clear in his stance.

    And you are absolutely right; Chesterton is a lion. He's the rallying cry, not the one who comes to the quiet souls and holds their hands. Those are two aspects of Christ. And while I am certainly myself the outcast-in-the-corner, I feel an almost gendered attraction to the opposite.

    Chesterton is good for me, because I do tend toward snobbery. Because I often feel out-of-sync, the lonely poet soul and so-forth, and Chesterton batters me merrily over the head with a plain loaf of bread saying, "Get over yourself. You're not more or less loved by God than these. You may be smarter, or more talented, or more intuitive, or more prayerful . . . but that means nothing in the light of the love of God. Indeed, it's all God's, and was never yours to begin with."

    That's how I interpret Chesterton's "mob." As the common people, and their "awful authority" is the common sense that rises in barren places. Such as when you tell an uneducated person about Oedipus Rex and he is repelled that Oedipus married his mother. It's why some brand simple people as backward and close-minded because they see very clearly that it's nonsense for two men or two women to get married. They don't need a degree in moral philosophy or a grasp of natural law to understand that, nor do they care. There's an incredible, untouchable profundity at the heart of men who are too poor or too uneducated to be philosophized into nonsense.

    It's not something I live daily. Too often I don't find the charity to revere theme, the way Mother Theresa, Padre Pio, Jesus, and Chesterton did. I believe that's what Chesterton means by "the mob." The "little ones" Jesus spoke of.

    1. Sorry to break everything up so much, it's easier to see this way, for me anyway ;)

      I'm sorry Rilke's Letters call up such feelings..he's a such a constant joy to me, especially those letters, I'm sorry to hear that such a loving little collection would call up baggage, but I do understand! It too me years to forgive Flannery O Connor for the awfulness of a professor who loved her..

      Part of what bothers me with Chesterton's mob (beside my loathing of mobs in general and the danger of trusting masses of people at all) is that I'm walking a line in life between the 'literary' type and the 'laborer' that Chesterton idealizes..The idea that they have simple common sense sort of naturally is ridiculous to me, really, and uneducated or not, the person prone to philosophize will philosophize away - even while working construction or tending his cows..I know so many people who revere them as 'salt of the earth' but don't know them and would be horrified to know that they don't get moral law, they obsess over idealistic details and they are every bit as flawed as the educated 'elite.' The whole 'noble savage' thing is as insulting to the savage as it is to those it dismisses. .. Did that make sense? I see it as well meaning..but wrong, and too wrapped up in the love of a sense you get from round-faced peasants selling bread in the lane to see the woman herself as someone different from every other round-faced peasant woman selling bread.

      I hope that doesn't sound harsh?? I tend toward snobbery too, but of a different sort ;) I like how you read him, and I think that if I'd needed him more I might have liked him more..I went to Franciscan yeah, very Catholic, he was pretty popular there, and I was sort of, well, myself. ;)

    2. It's good that the baggage is just baggage, and has nothing to do with Rilke himself. I have a never-to-see-the-light-of-day-again poem titled "Rilke Says Not to Write Love Poems." Best Advice.

      I do understand you. Generalization, if taken literally, is problematic. And there are good and bad of any race, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, sex, or profession. See, my first inclination is to react that way, the same way you do, to Chesterton's caricature of the masses. But I think his optimism is good to balance out the more sobering but equally accurate view of the untrustworthiness of human nature (Original Sin). If anything, he sees the irrationality and badness of people and sees through it; always naive, but somehow, in a way that is close to the way God loves . . . abounding in forgiveness, seeing only the beauty of a creator for the created.

      It's important to remember, as Lewis says, that it is immortals whom we love, hate, marry, and exile . . . we have intrinsic worth, not because of our worthiness, but because God gives it to us, and no one, not even we ourselves, can take that away. Chesterton respects and appreciates that. And it's not just for the "noble savages," as he can often be found proclaiming the goodness of his intellectual enemies, and finding their fault in common sense a mere over-abundance of something good.

      But the Church is not a democracy, and that's why holy saints are sometimes wrong on matters of theological doctrine but bad popes are not.

      I'm not sure if I responded point for point to what you said or if I've rambled off in a tangent, so forgive me if I seem to be responding to something you haven't said!

  5. Now, there is a case for the canonization of Chesterton, so he very well may be a saint in the future. I believe he is one. What Masha finds mockery I find purity. The way a child will tell you confidently "that's not the way to cook a pizza" or "a three-legged dog is supposed to have three legs, duh." It's all very innocent. He doesn't feel contempt or ridicule for those he confronts or calls out, because for Chesterton, he's just stating the obvious, and his sense of self is almost under-developed. The evidence of this is in his astounding friendships. Those he debated and opposed befriended him, or he them. They had nothing but good things to say about him, as a person, even if they disagreed with him. It's hard to feel that way about a person who deliberately mocks you.

    There is a masculine element to Chesterton, where Rilke is more feminine: quiet, contemplative, the dark, the receiver; where Chesterton is the loud, the active, the bright, the giver. But there's something about the nature of God, which I don't understand, that makes Him a He. And whatever it is, I sense it in Chesterton. Reading him is of the same stuff as the ultimate experience of God, the ecstasy, the feeling of being battered, uncomfortable, sweet and painful and totally out of your comfort zone.

    I think his generalizations are related to his masculinity. Where a feminine, nurturing writer would be better able to connect with individual souls, the masculine in Chesterton sees and reacts to big movements of people and events. And it has been suggested that Chesterton might have "suffered" from a mental disability, which would make sense in the light of his over-masculine brain, because while he could skim a book for thirty minutes and give the most accurate summary of the author's philosophy and purpose ever attempted immediately afterward (St. Thomas Aquinus), he couldn't remember which train to take or even where he was going on a particular morning. That's often the case with geniuses.

    I'm curious, as BTanaka, how you can actually imagine one and one not making two? I mean, really really imagine it, not just in a silly-nonsense kind of way, a what-if kind of way. If I really think about it, I cannot FATHOM how Jesus made the five loaves and two fish more. I know he did it, I believe he did it, I can imagine him doing it, but I can't IMAGINE IT. And I think that's what makes it a miracle. Chesterton's purpose in "The Ethics of Elfland" wasn't to say there weren't miracles, but to say that there is an understood order to the universe. That the answer to the question, "Can God make a rock so big he can't lift it?" isn't only "no," it's "that's an invalid question." Of course, when get into deep metaphysics like that of the Trinity, we see a reality in which 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. But Chesterton is talking about natural order, not the nature of God. And even then, in my limited reading, I've come to understand from the theologians that God's nature follows an intrinsic logic, even if it is a logic we don't yet have the mental capacity to grasp.

    In the end, it would be boring if everybody liked the same everything; it really doesn't bother me at all. There's room for all of that in Christ. I heard that once when Tolkien went to read his most recent notes from The Lord of the Rings, Hugo Dyson said, "Oh no, not another f------ elf!" Harsh, man, harsh! c;

    1. HAHAHAHA! That last paragraph is perfect. :D

      I'd love to hear Masha talk further about two and one not making three, but I'll back her up on it, anyway. It's hard to explain, but I did sympathize with her on that point... it's just that when I read Chesterton talking about it, I sympathized with the dazzling vision he was championing instead of feeling myself in the place of the people he was saying couldn't make that imaginary leap. Maybe I get it because I'm so head-in-the-clouds that I have a hard time grasping natural order. Or maybe it's because I fail logic tests so badly (all those multiple-choice answers look more or less the same to me...)

      Anyway, these are superb thoughts! I've been writing my rejoinder most of the morning, so it should go up Monday. :)

    2. I want to amend two things I said above.

      Re the loaves and fishes:

      Wasn't he making a case at some point against the limited view of science? I think that's important to bring in to understand the "one and one make two" statement. He's talking about straight math--pure numbers. So, while Jesus took the five loaves and two fishes and made them 1,000 loaves and a thousand fishes, we can agree that before the miracle they were five and two; after the miracle they were 2,000. They're not both at once. That's what Chesterton means, I think. The ugly stepsisters are two. If they're two, that means they're not three, and they're not one. It's a totally different logic from the the science-logic that says "there is gravity, therefore it is impossible to fly." You can imagine someone flying. You CAN imagine someone--a god or a genie--taking some food and making it more food. But you can't imagine a world in which the number two isn't itself, where it could mean three or six or twelve, depending on one's feeling or the time of day. Where one person is three people. Definitions, essences, cannot undo themselves. Just like God cannot make a rock so big He can't lift it. Or give people free will and yet force them into Heaven and away from Hell for their own sake.

      And that's where it's interesting to note that, when I started researching the Trinity for debate purposes, I was surprised that there is an actual logic behind it, though it's still a mystery, beginning with the differentiation between "persons" and "beings." So even there, idea that it's nonsense to have three people that are one person is affirmed. That's why we say He is "three people in one God," and not that God is a person that is three people. That's theologically inaccurate and literally impossible.

      Re Chesterton's under-developed sense of self:

      I should have said lack of self-consciousness. He was aware of himself, his tastes, his appearance, his faults and strengths. But when he debates he's not self-conscious. He's handling the facts as independent from himself and his likes, if that makes sense. It's hard to explain, but it's what made him so open to conversion.

      Looking forward to your post, Jenna. It's eight o'clock in the morning, but this kind of conversation makes me thirsty for a beer!

    3. "The evidence of this is in his astounding friendships. Those he debated and opposed befriended him, or he them. They had nothing but good things to say about him, as a person, even if they disagreed with him." (Christie's comment)

      I like that! I like that he had friends who were different and still liked him, and that he liked them..I like it a lot. It does argue for his mockery being well-meant, which is lovely. And much easier to like.

      The bit about Tolkien is just fantastic! LOL! As for imagining numbers..It's below:

  6. It's hard to's sort of like counting Stonehenge (which can't be counted) and coming up with five different numbers for the same stone..Facts - like numbers and tangible things aren't things I Expect to come out the same..there's always something growing or shrinking, or laughing within them to make it different somehow. I can't Understand math, but I can imagine it and beyond it..Truths - morality & doctrine - I can't imagine changing..they're Realer, more foundational..I can imagine 1 and 1 equaling 3 because, well, sometimes it does, but I can't imagine the Eucharist not being the Body and Blood of Christ..I can imagine 4 stones being actually 26 stones that for some reason I can't count, and counting is just small math..And, surprisingly math agrees - Kathleen Norris comforts me with the knowledge that in "Boolean algebra" (whatever that is) 2+2 can be zero, and in "base three, two plus two is eleven"..I don't pretend to understand, but I can imagine. And I love to imagine...the whole "But you can't imagine a world in which the number two isn't itself, where it could mean three or six or twelve, depending on one's feeling or the time of day." Is what I imagine..the number's preference shifting by the sun, or by who's looking at him, or whatever..Why shouldn't he? I guess it's one of the blessings of the Church that we are drawn out of ourselves a bit to see how others think, all in union with the Church..all different!

    Beer for breakfast is one of the highlights of being Catholic! I say indulge away!..I think I might ;)

    I have more to say - you wrote so much, and really made me like him so much more - kind of like I light j.k. Rowling, I guess, because they've both done obvious good in others with their writing. - But let me get this posted and see what I have time for now, I'm making bread today (with bits of bacon and cheese in it! Happy Easter!)..and I have to get it started. <3

  7. I think we're misunderstanding each other, and it doesn't help that GK uses numbers for his particular example, which is the commonest of common weak points between all of us!

    So let's use something other than numbers. Let's say, you and me, to stand in for 2 and 3. You say you can imagine a world where 2 is 3, but I think (forgive my presumption, of course I could be wrong) what you mean is that you can imagine the unnamed number two suddenly and inexplicably becoming the unnamed number three. So:

    . . .

    Those periods. They are what they are. In some cultures, they have no counting system other than none, some, and many. So to those people, there aren't three dots. They just _are_. Yet they still know that if you add one more dot to the group, the essence of the group has changed. Even if they have no vocabulary for it, they know those dots there are not identical to

    . . . . .


    . .

    So the example you used for Stonehenge doesn't mean that

    . . .


    . .

    are the same. Rather, it means that sometimes Stonehenge is

    . . .

    and sometimes it is

    . .

    which is not the same thing at all. It would be much easier to _show_ this to you using objects and explain it in person than to attempt it in text on a computer!

    How this ties into you and me: I cannot imagine a world in which I am you, and you are me. It's just utter nonsense, and all for the better. Because a world with Masha and Christie is a super-beautiful-amazing world. A world where you and I, I mean our essences, are interchangeable and not concrete, is much duller for it. It's also, and I mean no disrespect by this ( c; ), a dreadful world! It's the world of the Hindu, where we're all just aspects of a giant sleeping god. I don't want to be you, or my mom, or my son, or the lady who lives next door. I want us to Exist. And to Exist means to accept the basic truth that if something is something, it cannot be everything. To exist, to name, to be . . . necessarily means rejection.

    That's just the one sentence in Chesterton, though a fascinating one. The more I talk about it, the more I realize he was talking Plato . . . that never occurred to me before!

    I'm going to Mass now, but I've bot an Angry Orchard bottle of hard cider waiting for me when I get home!

    1. Jenna's note to Jenna: re-read the context of a quote before trying to comment on it. Apparently I was all out of whack in my earlier piece. :P

      Math is not my thing. But Lou first caught my eye with this joke: "There are 10 types of people in the world--those who understand binary, and those who don't." I think he had to explain how binary is written before I got it, but still, I was all like, OOH SMART AND FUNNY.

      Golly, hard cider sounds like a good idea.

    2. I-I-I think I get it! Almost! Wait, no . . . lost it!

  8. Angry Orchard is so much better than Woodchuck. Is it Original, Crisp, or Ginger? OR... is it their new (and limited release) Elderberry? No, I'm not an alcoholic...
    As for the numbers thing, I'm not sure what Masha is thinking entirely (I'm only married to her) but I suppose the clearest way I could express my take on it (which conveniently seems to coincide with hers) would be to say that a woman can be married and is still a woman (1) and at the same time a wife (2). Flawed I know but for my brain it's about the best I can do.
    But I wonder if the main problem lies with the concept (not definition) of the word "imagine". It often seems that discussions of this sort [and can I just go off on a kind of tangent here and say how awesome it is that you all have brought back the art of online-discussions-that-don't-descend-into-all-caps-arguments? It really means a lot for my faith in our culture...] hinge on a sort of personal 'take' on key terms - for some "imagine" might completely subconsciously conjure up all sorts of paired meanings with faith, magic, understanding, conceiving, paradox, etc. And for someone else it may have those exact same connections but in drastically different ratios that may ultimately alter the effect of the word. Like an Irish Car Bomb made with a shot that's 1/2 Baileys and 1/2 Jamesons is not on the surface too different from one made with 3/4 Baileys and only 1/4 Jamesons. But they might hit you differently after the third or fourth. Or, since numbers are getting fuzzy, the fifth or sixth. Or is that the same...? Damn.
    -The Neglected Husband

    1. Crisp. It's so juicy! And the label illustration makes it for me. I'm a judge-a-book-by-its-cover kind of girl like that.

      I had thought about our approaching the term "imagine" differently. Chesterton is using "imagine" in a distinct sense, because of course human beings can imagine all sorts of things, especially nonsense. And since he was addressing science-minded types, it was probably a give-in that they agreed with the inherent nature of numbers.

      Your example has helped me understand, and I feel affirmed that we believe the same things, just that language fails us in its inaccuracy. Obviously, we can imagine a world in which God is evil and evil is good, ergo Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass. And yet, it's nonsense because a world in which God was not good would necessarily mean God wasn't God. So self-destroying concepts are out, or logic is pointless. That's what Chesterton (and I) hate vehemently. The nihilism that says nothing is nothing and everything is everything.

      So your wife-and-woman example doesn't fall into this category because being a wife doesn't destroy the meaning of being a woman. Not the way being a woman destroys the meaning of being a priest. See the difference? That's why I don't get Catholic "feminists" who want female priests because it's fair. I'm like, "Fair? What does fair have to do with it? It's not possible to have a woman who is a priest because it goes against the very nature of priesthood. A woman who is a priest is not a priest." (Peter Kreeft goes into detail on this in a free online talk--you can find it on his website.)

      On the other hand, it may be that numbers aren't a part of that un-flinching nature of the universe. I'm too unlearned (read: numbers disabled; it's a thing, I swear!) to really know-know.

      Suffice to say I was able to glean the greater point of his statement, which was that there is a certain order to the created universe that reflects a creator that is Order itself, and that Faerie supports this. Hence all the inexplicable rules and conditions in fairy tales. There's a fundamental and significant similarity between the folklore that forbids the visitor to eat the food of the faeries and the fact that eating the wrong food brought Original Sin down onto our heads. I don't believe that coincidence, not for a minute.

      "can I just go off on a kind of tangent here and say how awesome it is that you all have brought back the art of online-discussions-that-don't-descend-into-all-caps-arguments? It really means a lot for my faith in our culture..."

      Oh, most definitely. You can that again and again, friend!

  9. Seth is kind of right, I see it not as Stonehenge adding or removing pillars to make it impossible to count, but shifting the counting so that at first one and one and one are three, and another time one and one and one are 10..because it just imagination doesn't have a whole lot of reason in it..actually, my life doesn't have a whole lot of reason..maybe Stonehenge is not so good as that other one - Long Meg and her Daughters - that can be counted only by women and never by changes something in the math so that two people can count at one, and the man will always get a different answer, the woman will not..It's hard to explain: math is kind of like reading palms I guess - generally a writer's fork means you're a writer, but sometimes it doesn't, sometimes the meaning changes, and the only way to know is to just know..It's still a writer's fork, but it doesn't mean writing..just as two is still two but it changes interpretation..

    But I think you're right, it's just one sentence and obsessing over it will eventually take us away from Chesterton and into ourselves..I like a world where my numbers are untrustworthy and your numbers are loyal..and don't worry - people..I can imagine them switching, kind of, almost..but they aren't like numbers. People are more like truths and less like facts.

    Listening now to the story of Elijah and the widow with just a drop of oil in the jar..Kind of the same idea, I guess..(Yes, I'm listening to Christian talk..don't judge me, we don't get too many stations and I HATE sport's talk!) ;)

    1. Haha, okay, I KNOW I've strode into the realm of metaphysics way over my head because I get you. I DO. I didn't mean that the number of pillars that make up Stonehenge change . . . but it's one of those things where when my mind actually grasps it for a second, it slips out the next, and I don't know anymore what I did know a moment before. All I can say is that I remember the moment I did understand and have to take it on faith that it makes sense. Sort of like how when the angel-witches were explaining tesseracts to Meg in A Wrinkle in Time.

      I liked your Body of Christ example. We know that after Consecration, the incidence (can't remember the theological term) of wine and bread remains but the substance is changed. So the Eucharist is, at its essence, not bread anymore. Though, depending on the definition, one could say that it was both. Similarly, math can change. 1 + 1 can equal 2 or 3 or 4, like in the multiplication of the loves and the fishes. But the nature of the number 2 will always be the same, intrinsic, that which God made it, because it existed in Him first.

      You gave a great example of this before when talking about Twilight and vampires, a point with which I agree. I don't consider the Twilight "vampires" vampires because by their very nature, Mrs. Meyers unmakes them.

      What I'm doing, really, is arguing against deconstructionism, and I think Chesterton was too.

    2. Haha! At the end of all this, I like long as I avoid reading him..I like him in you all. I like the people he helps to build - meeting his children, I suppose, and then looking at him and wondering how such came from this father and being delighted.

  10. Here's my response post: