Some Favorite G.K. Chesterton Quotes

I decided that the most important thing my blog could do for anyone would be to convey these quotes to people. Simply by copying and pasting them I feel that I have accomplished something.

Let’s start with my favorite thing anyone has ever said about the world we live in today. G.K. Chesterton said it.

If we all floated in the air like bubbles, free to drift anywhere at any instant, the practical result would be that no one would have the courage to begin a conversation. It would be so embarrassing to start a sentence in a friendly whisper, and then have to shout the last half of it because the other party was floating away into the free and formless ether. The two must hold each other to do justice to each other. If Americans can be divorced for “incompatibility of temper” I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.

Now, onto Heretics:

If we were to-morrow morning snowed up in the street in which we live, we should step suddenly into a much larger and much wilder world than we have ever known. And it is the whole effort of the typically modern person to escape from the street in which he lives. First he invents modern hygiene and goes to Margate. Then he invents modern culture and goes to Florence. Then he invents modern imperialism and goes to Timbuctoo. He goes to the fantastic borders of the earth. He pretends to shoot tigers. He almost rides on a camel. And in all this he is still essentially fleeing from the street in which he was born; and of this flight he is always ready with his own explanation. He says he is fleeing from his street because it is dull; he is lying. He is really fleeing from his street because it is a great deal too exciting. It is exciting because it is exacting; it is exacting because it is alive.

The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained knowledge of good and of evil. Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains to us.

Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good. We are fond of talking about “liberty”; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “progress”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “education”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. The modern man says, “Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.” This is, logically rendered, “Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.” He says, “Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.” This, logically stated, means, “Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.” He says, “Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.” This, clearly expressed, means, “We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.”

“Democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill

Finally, Orthodoxy:

The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; this may be observed specially in the two or three commonest kinds of madness. If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do. Or if a man says that he is Jesus Christ, it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ’s.

Oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life.

The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central.

There’s a lot more from this last book that I’m currently chewing on.

Posted: April 22nd, 2012 | Excerpts 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Some Favorite G.K. Chesterton Quotes”

  1. 1 Gabe Ruth said at 5:20 pm on April 23rd, 2012:

    Mr. Morrow,
    Excellent quotes. (I harbor some reservations about the one from Churchill though.)

    I’ve long loved Chesterton, but just recently I’ve read what I think are two of his best: A Short History of England, and The Napolean of Notting Hill. That last is perhaps the best refutation of modernity in favor of humanity that I’ve ever read, and the former put me in mind of Lewis:
    “Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.”

  2. 2 Avery said at 6:12 am on April 24th, 2012:

    Hi Gabe, thanks for your comment. Sorry for the slow reply, it was stuck in the spam filter. When you juxtapose the Churchill one next to the Chesterton one, you can understand a point that comes to me as a revelation. Democracy is not a “good” system, as some kings of the past were truly good kings. Democracy is only the least evil system– it suppresses evil but does not enable goodness.

  3. 3 Avery said at 6:18 am on April 24th, 2012:

    Another quote that has struck me as a revelation recently is by Charles Maurras, as quoted by Benoist in The Problem of Democracy. Maurras claimed that democracy “consumes what previous ages have produced.” I do not know what sense he meant it in, but it seems to me to be true in every sense material, social, and spiritual. Modernity physically consumes billions of years of coal and oil; it socially consumes systems of power into its political system; and it spiritually consumes culture.

    I have not yet read The Napolean of Notting Hill. I’ll check it out soon, but as you can see my current reading is really bogging me down with ideas…

  4. 4 Gabe Ruth said at 3:27 pm on April 24th, 2012:

    Every generation depends on what previous ages have produced, and that is all well and good, so long as each generation understands its responsibility to the next. That is the thing that I believe democracy has damaged, mostly by indulging radical individualism and self-will: the willingness to say it’s not all about me, or even about me and my neighbors, but about my children and my neighbors children.

    Have you ever read anything by Christopher Lasch?

  5. 5 Avery said at 4:24 pm on April 24th, 2012:

    Nope, I’ve never heard of him before. Another great writer I’ll have to put on my list!