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Cómo vuela el tiempo, and how to fly forward going back in time

Gilbert Keith Chesterton at work.
I had great plans for blog posts for January... and now January, 2015 has flown.  Hace dos semanas ya, todas las tiendas empezaron a vender los dulces de San Valentín. Valentine's candy has been in stores for at least two weeks. 

I would, however, like to share some wisdom that could make this still young year a more meaningful one, wisdom gained from reading G.K. Chesterton, my primary literary companion during January. As I feel time--and life--flying by, these essays encourage me to stop and look back in time, and calm and enlighten me. Although I would have disagreed with Chesterton's views on women's suffrage, among other topics, it is oh so very worth one's time to go "back" to his writing; a task made easier and quite accessible by the work of three Chesterton scholars.

Editor Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, and Aidan Mackey have compiled a scintillating collection of essays by the famous essayist, entitled In Defense of Sanity.   The book's cover features an image of a most striking painting by Timothy Joneswell-framed by John Herreid's elegant cover design. Many of the essays in this collection are making their first appearance in more than a century. 

Reading Chesteron is mental deep-diving. Although some of his writing is a captive to his era (He lived from 1874-1936 in England), many of his insights and observations remain timeless, and brave. Not to mention beautifully written. In a world now eaten up and chewed upon by sound bites and blurbs, I'm glad to have begun this 21st century year with a great mind's musings from some 80 years ago. 



A few insights and observations from In Defense of Sanity
(Ignatius Press, San Francisco):


The Thing, 1929
"Business, especially big business, is now organised like an army. It is, as some would say, a sort of mild militarism without bloodshed or, as I should say, a militarism without the military virtues."

Come to Think of It, 1932
"It seems to me obvious that this is not really the age of audacity, but merely of advertisement..."

Come to Think of It, 1932
" ... being sane is not identical with what some call being sensible."

All I Survey, 1933    On Turnpikes and Mediaevalism
"...we are the only men in all history who fell back upon bragging about the mere fact that to-day is not yesterday...Mediaeval people never worried about being mediaeval; and modern people do worry horribly about being modern."

The Book of Job, 1929
"For when once people have begun to believe that prosperity is the reward of virtue their next calamity is obvious. If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue, it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the heavy task of making good men successful. They will adopt the easier task of making our successful men good."

He wrote of wife Frances with great respect and affection.
As though he were observing our industrialized, hyper-connected, cyber-connected world today, Chesterton warns of looking for truth in a commercial approach to life, of expecting schools to not only teach our children, but also to raise them, and encourages us not to abandon the richness of history, whether we find that richness in medieval architecture or in Shakespeare's "cataract of clear song and natural eloquence." 

I write this as Katy Perry's Super Bowl halftime performance is underway. The music echos, sounding more like a series of yelling calls than a song; the beats of the bass land hard and heavy. Far from the days of the Globe Theatre and Chesterton's well-read Shakespeare. No poor peasants in this crowd, where tickets average $8000. National advertisements sold for $4 million per 30-second commercial. And yet, one man's steady voice continues to arrive and to reach my heart and mind in this time, behind the scenes of the "grand success" now airing on television. Chesterton writes: "...anything on a grand scale gives the illusion of a grand success. Curiously enough, multiplication acts as a concealment. Repetition actually disguises failure."

Chesterton prompts the reader to examine where and at what one has failed...and to ask what is failure, truly? What does the Super Bowl succeed at? What does it fail at?  In our hearts, we know the answers. And in the news, we read of $8000 tickets to a football game, while we learn that 51 percent of American children must get their main meal from school, because they do not have enough to eat at home.

Let me leave you, though, not with Chesterton's insights and questionings, valuable as they are. I will leave you instead with some of the most beautiful writing about the earth that I've ever read from "The Furrows:"

"I saw suddenly the fierce rush of the furrows. The furrows are like arrows; they fly along an arc of sky. They are like leaping animals; they vault an inviolable hill and roll down the other side. They have all the air of Arabs sweeping a desert, of rockets sweeping the sky, of torrents sweeping a watercourse. Nothing ever seemed so living as those brown lines as they shot sheer from the height of a ridge down to their still whirl of the valley.  And yet they were only thin straight lines drawn with difficulty, like a diagram, by painful and patient men. The men that ploughed tried to plough straight; they had no notion of giving great sweeps and swirls to the eye. Those cataracts of cloven earth; they were done by the grace of God."



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