Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Essay: "A Defence of Nonsense." GK Chesterton.

Essay: “A Defence of Nonsense.” GK Chesterton.

One-minute review: Nonsense and faith. In neither is there total reason. In both there is wonder. Faith is something too big for our senses. Nonsense is a new way of looking—a different way of looking at a commonplace.


“There are two equal and eternal ways of looking at this twilight world of ours: we may see it as the twilight of evening or the twilight of morning; we may think of anything, down to a fallen acorn, as a descendant or as an ancestor.”

“…the idea that lies at the back of nonsense—the idea of escape, of escape into a world where things are not fixed…in an eternal appropriateness, where apples grow on pear trees and any odd man you meet may have three legs.”

“Every great literature has always been allegorical—allegorical of some view of the whole universe. The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, the Odyssey because all life is a journey, the Book of Job because all life is a riddle.”

“…the world must not only be tragic, romantic, and religious, it must be nonsensical also.”

“Religion has for centuries been trying to make men exult in the ‘wonder’ of creation, but it has forgotten that a thing cannot be completely wonderful so long as it remains sensible.”

“…the Book of Job…is not…of the ordered beneficence of the creation; but, on the contrary, a picture of the huge and undecipherable unreason of it.”

“The well-meaning person who, by merely studying the logical side of things, has decided that ‘faith is nonsense,’ does not know how truly he speaks; later it may come back to him in the form that nonsense is faith.”

Great Essays. Ed. Houston Peterson. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc. 1960.

What is an essay? “They are all prefaces. A preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they [essays] do nothing else.” Charles Lamb.

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