Friday, December 19, 2008

A Thought at the End of Finals Week

"Sunrise is a never-ending glory, getting out of bed is a never-ending nusiance."
--G.K. Chesterton

I have a solution that some of you might already be following. Don't go to bed in the first place.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Essay by GKC


The End of the World

For some time I had been wandering in quiet streets in the curious
town of Besançon, which stands like a sort of peninsula
in a horse-shoe of river. You may learn from the guide books
that it was the birthplace of Victor Hugo, and that it is
a military station with many forts, near the French frontier.
But you will not learn from guide books that the very tiles
on the roofs seem to be of some quainter and more delicate
colour than the tiles of all the other towns of the world;
that the tiles look like the little clouds of some strange sunset,
or like the lustrous scales of some strange fish. They will not
tell you that in this town the eye cannot rest on anything without
finding it in some way attractive and even elvish, a carved face
at a street corner, a gleam of green fields through a stunted arch,
or some unexpected colour for the enamel of a spire or dome.

. . . . .

Evening was coming on and in the light of it all these colours
so simple and yet so subtle seemed more and more to fit together
and make a fairy tale. I sat down for a little outside a café
with a row of little toy trees in front of it, and presently
the driver of a fly (as we should call it) came to the same place.
He was one of those very large and dark Frenchmen, a type not
common but yet typical of France; the Rabelaisian Frenchman,
huge, swarthy, purple-faced, a walking wine-barrel; he was a sort
of Southern Falstaff, if one can imagine Falstaff anything but English.
And, indeed, there was a vital difference, typical of two nations.
For while Falstaff would have been shaking with hilarity like
a huge jelly, full of the broad farce of the London streets,
this Frenchman was rather solemn and dignified than otherwise--
as if pleasure were a kind of pagan religion. After some
talk which was full of the admirable civility and equality
of French civilisation, he suggested without either eagerness
or embarrassment that he should take me in his fly for an hour's
ride in the hills beyond the town. And though it was growing late
I consented; for there was one long white road under an archway
and round a hill that dragged me like a long white cord.
We drove through the strong, squat gateway that was made by Romans,
and I remember the coincidence like a sort of omen that as we
passed out of the city I heard simultaneously the three sounds
which are the trinity of France. They make what some poet calls
"a tangled trinity," and I am not going to disentangle it.
Whatever those three things mean, how or why they co-exist;
whether they can be reconciled or perhaps are reconciled already;
the three sounds I heard then by an accident all at once make up
the French mystery. For the brass band in the Casino gardens behind
me was playing with a sort of passionate levity some ramping tune
from a Parisian comic opera, and while this was going on I heard
also the bugles on the hills above, that told of terrible loyalties
and men always arming in the gate of France; and I heard also,
fainter than these sounds and through them all, the Angelus.

. . . . .

After this coincidence of symbols I had a curious sense of having
left France behind me, or, perhaps, even the civilised world.
And, indeed, there was something in the landscape wild
enough to encourage such a fancy. I have seen perhaps
higher mountains, but I have never seen higher rocks;
I have never seen height so near, so abrupt and sensational,
splinters of rock that stood up like the spires of churches,
cliffs that fell sudden and straight as Satan fell from heaven.
There was also a quality in the ride which was not only astonishing,
but rather bewildering; a quality which many must have noticed
if they have driven or ridden rapidly up mountain roads.
I mean a sense of gigantic gyration, as of the whole
earth turning about one's head. It is quite inadequate
to say that the hills rose and fell like enormous waves.
Rather the hills seemed to turn about me like the enormous sails
of a windmill, a vast wheel of monstrous archangelic wings.
As we drove on and up into the gathering purple of the sunset this
dizziness increased, confounding things above with things below.
Wide walls of wooded rock stood out above my head like a roof.
I stared at them until I fancied that I was staring down at a
wooded plain. Below me steeps of green swept down to the river.
I stared at them until I fancied that they swept up to the sky.
The purple darkened, night drew nearer; it seemed only to cut clearer
the chasms and draw higher the spires of that nightmare landscape.
Above me in the twilight was the huge black hulk of the driver,
and his broad, blank back was as mysterious as the back
of Death in Watts' picture. I felt that I was growing
too fantastic, and I sought to speak of ordinary things.
I called out to the driver in French, "Where are you taking me?"
and it is a literal and solemn fact that he answered me in the same
language without turning around, "To the end of the world."

I did not answer. I let him drag the vehicle up dark,
steep ways, until I saw lights under a low roof of little
trees and two children, one oddly beautiful, playing at ball.
Then we found ourselves filling up the strict main street
of a tiny hamlet, and across the wall of its inn was written
in large letters, LE BOUT DU MONDE--the end of the world.

The driver and I sat down outside that inn without a word, as if all
ceremonies were natural and understood in that ultimate place.
I ordered bread for both of us, and red wine, that was good but
had no name. On the other side of the road was a little plain
church with a cross on top of it and a cock on top of the cross.
This seemed to me a very good end of the world; if the story
of the world ended here it ended well. Then I wondered whether I
myself should really be content to end here, where most certainly
there were the best things of Christendom--a church and children's
games and decent soil and a tavern for men to talk with men.
But as I thought a singular doubt and desire grew slowly in me,
and at last I started up.

"Are you not satisfied?" asked my companion. "No," I said,
"I am not satisfied even at the end of the world."

Then, after a silence, I said, "Because you see there are two
ends of the world. And this is the wrong end of the world;
at least the wrong one for me. This is the French end of the world.
I want the other end of the world. Drive me to the other end
of the world."

"The other end of the world?" he asked. "Where is that?"

"It is in Walham Green," I whispered hoarsely. "You see it
on the London omnibuses. 'World's End and Walham Green.'
Oh, I know how good this is; I love your vineyards and your
free peasantry, but I want the English end of the world.
I love you like a brother, but I want an English cabman,
who will be funny and ask me what his fare 'is.' Your bugles
stir my blood, but I want to see a London policeman.
Take, oh, take me to see a London policeman."

He stood quite dark and still against the end of the sunset,
and I could not tell whether he understood or not. I got back
into his carriage.

"You will understand," I said, "if ever you are an exile even
for pleasure. The child to his mother, the man to his country,
as a countryman of yours once said. But since, perhaps, it is
rather too long a drive to the English end of the world,
we may as well drive back to Besançon."

Only as the stars came out among those immortal hills I wept
for Walham Green.

And here is what Dr. Overkamp and Mr. Overkamp and I found out in our discussion on Monday:

Significant themes:

Patriotism + Love of common things
1. Even in the best place in France, GK wants to go back to England because it is home.
2. The French landscape is portrayed as fantastic and slightly eerie, heightening the sense of familliar national significance that England would have had for him.
3. The familliarity with England is heightened by the things he wants from it: they are all common, even boring things (Dr. Overkamp speculated that Walham Green is a rundown London neighborhood.

Sense of Place
1. Unique description of France: the unusual descriptions of roof tiles and sunset and landscape.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Task

If any of you are actually interested in posting or commenting on this blog, here's an idea: find a work of Chesterton that deals with the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. And/Or tell me what days are best for in-person meetings next semester.

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another Neat Link

Read this almost makes you want to find a nice person you disagree with and thank them for it.

P.S. Thank you Zach for following all the rules at the bottom of the article above so very well.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Econ majors (and all others who are interested),
Google "El Diputado Distributa." It is a blog by a liker of G.K. Chesterton's pet economic system, Distributism.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gype, not yet.

Gype...not yet
I did a google search for gype, to see if I could find the rules or compile them from all the Original Chestertonian sources. If you type in"gype chesterton -"Dr. Thursday"" you get about 170 answers. Paradoxically, if you type in "gype chesterton -"Dr. Thursday" -aaa" you get about 101 answers.The sites that were excluded when you typed in -aaa were sites that seemed to be lists of all the words there are in alphabetical order. I also learned that practically the only things you find on google are blogs that mention gype but tell you nothing about it, G.K. Chesterton's autobiography, and Maisie Ward's biography of Chesterton. I also found:Lawrence D PO Box 635 Chesterton IN 46304-0635 26421 Andersen Paul Frank ...... Olmsted OH 44070 50920 Gype Lawrence Keith 5980 Whiteford Dr. Highland ... Apparently, someone has actually played this game within the last 10 years and it involved water pistols as a form of punishment for the outside version and scrabble letters for the inside version. It is my personal conclusion that gype is a game for which the rules are to be decided democratically by the players. The idea of the game is absurdity. The game is meant to be adapted to the situation. Apparently, Chesterton's sedentary version was meant to be a visual-spatial strategy game. If you can find, in Chesterton's works, more descriptions of the game then the ones I found, I might try to give you a set of real rules. It is my personal recommendation that we, as the Innocent-Smith style nation of "Users of Diversity," form our own official set of rules so that we may play it over the internet or take it to the next convention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our Lady of the Rosary

Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary....And I didn't realize it until 9 p.m., so I didn't read Chesterton's "Lepanto" or pray the Rosary. Fr. Holdren's sermon was all right, but it probably would have been better if he would have read Lepanto to us instead. After all the feast was instituted to celebrate this most monumentous battle.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Oops, a mistake...

You actually post a comment by cliking on the words that show the number of comments.

The First Discussion Topic

This is the current essay that the UNL Chesterton society is discussing. Have fun, and please comment using the "post a comment" Link!


An Accident

(by G.K. Chesterton, of course!)

Some time ago I wrote in these columns an article called"The Extraordinary Cabman." I am now in a position tocontribute my experience of a still more extraordinary cab.The extraordinary thing about the cab was that it did not like me;it threw me out violently in the middle of the Strand.If my friends who read the DAILY NEWS are as romantic (and as rich)as I take them to be, I presume that this experience is not uncommon.I suppose that they are all being thrown out of cabs, all over London.Still, as there are some people, virginal and remote from the world,who have not yet had this luxurious experience, I will givea short account of the psychology of myself when my hansom cabran into the side of a motor omnibus, and I hope hurt it.
I do not need to dwell on the essential romance of the hansom cab--that one really noble modern thing which our age, when it is judged,will gravely put beside the Parthenon. It is really modern in thatit is both secret and swift. My particular hansom cab was modern inthese two respects; it was also very modern in the fact that it cameto grief. But it is also English; it is not to be found abroad; itbelongs to a beautiful, romantic country where nearly everybody ispretending to be richer than they are, and acting as if they were.It is comfortable, and yet it is reckless; and that combinationis the very soul of England. But although I had alwaysrealised all these good qualities in a hansom cab, I had notexperienced all the possibilities, or, as the moderns put it,all the aspects of that vehicle. My enunciation of the meritsof a hansom cab had been always made when it was the right way up.Let me, therefore, explain how I felt when I fell out of a hansomcab for the first and, I am happy to believe, the last time.Polycrates threw one ring into the sea to propitiate the Fates.I have thrown one hansom cab into the sea (if you will excuse a ratherviolent metaphor) and the Fates are, I am quite sure, propitiated.Though I am told they do not like to be told so.
I was driving yesterday afternoon in a hansom cab down oneof the sloping streets into the Strand, reading one of my ownadmirable articles with continual pleasure, and still morecontinual surprise, when the horse fell forward, scrambled a momenton the scraping stones, staggered to his feet again, and went forward.The horses in my cabs often do this, and I have learnt to enjoymy own articles at any angle of the vehicle. So I did not seeanything at all odd about the way the horse went on again.But I saw it suddenly in the faces of all the people on the pavement.They were all turned towards me, and they were all struckwith fear suddenly, as with a white flame out of the sky.And one man half ran out into the road with a movement of theelbow as if warding off a blow, and tried to stop the horse.Then I knew that the reins were lost, and the next moment the horsewas like a living thunder-bolt. I try to describe things exactlyas they seemed to me; many details I may have missed or mis-stated;many details may have, so to speak, gone mad in the race down the road.I remember that I once called one of my experiences narrated in thispaper "A Fragment of Fact." This is, at any rate, a fragment of fact.No fact could possibly be more fragmentary than the sort of factthat I expected to be at the bottom of that street.
. . . . .
I believe in preaching to the converted; for I have generallyfound that the converted do not understand their own religion.Thus I have always urged in this paper that democracy hasa deeper meaning than democrats understand; that is, that commonand popular things, proverbs, and ordinary sayings always havesomething in them unrealised by most who repeat them. Here is one.We have all heard about the man who is in momentary danger,and who sees the whole of his life pass before him in a moment.In the cold, literal, and common sense of words, this is obviouslya thundering lie. Nobody can pretend that in an accidentor a mortal crisis he elaborately remembered all the ticketshe had ever taken to Wimbledon, or all the times that he had everpassed the brown bread and butter.
But in those few moments, while my cab was tearing towardsthe traffic of the Strand, I discovered that there is a truthbehind this phrase, as there is behind all popular phrases.I did really have, in that short and shrieking period,a rapid succession of a number of fundamental points of view.I had, so to speak, about five religions in almost as many seconds.My first religion was pure Paganism, which among sincere menis more shortly described as extreme fear. Then there succeededa state of mind which is quite real, but for which no propername has ever been found. The ancients called it Stoicism,and I think it must be what some German lunatics mean(if they mean anything) when they talk about Pessimism.It was an empty and open acceptance of the thing that happens--as if one had got beyond the value of it. And then, curiously enough,came a very strong contrary feeling--that things mattered verymuch indeed, and yet that they were something more than tragic.It was a feeling, not that life was unimportant, but thatlife was much too important ever to be anything but life.I hope that this was Christianity. At any rate, it occurredat the moment when we went crash into the omnibus.
It seemed to me that the hansom cab simply turned over on top of me,like an enormous hood or hat. I then found myself crawlingout from underneath it in attitudes so undignified that theymust have added enormously to that great cause to which theAnti-Puritan League and I have recently dedicated ourselves.I mean the cause of the pleasures of the people. As to my demeanourwhen I emerged, I have two confessions to make, and they are bothmade merely in the interests of mental science. The first is thatwhereas I had been in a quite pious frame of mind the moment beforethe collision, when I got to my feet and found I had got off with acut or two I began (like St. Peter) to curse and to swear.A man offered me a newspaper or something that I had dropped.I can distinctly remember consigning the paper to a stateof irremediable spiritual ruin. I am very sorry for this now,and I apologise both to the man and to the paper. I have not theleast idea what was the meaning of this unnatural anger; I mentionit as a psychological confession. It was immediately followed byextreme hilarity, and I made so many silly jokes to the policemanthat he disgraced himself by continual laughter before all thelittle boys in the street, who had hitherto taken him seriously.
. . . . .
There is one other odd thing about the matter which I also mentionas a curiosity of the human brain or deficiency of brain.At intervals of about every three minutes I kept on remindingthe policeman that I had not paid the cabman, and that I hopedhe would not lose his money. He said it would be all right,and the man would appear. But it was not until about half an hourafterwards that it suddenly struck me with a shock intolerablethat the man might conceivably have lost more than half a crown;that he had been in danger as well as I. I had instinctivelyregarded the cabman as something uplifted above accidents, a god.I immediately made inquiries, and I am happy to say that theyseemed to have been unnecessary.
But henceforward I shall always understand with a darker and more delicatecharity those who take tythe of mint, and anise, and cumin, and neglectthe weightier matters of the law; I shall remember how I was once reallytortured with owing half a crown to a man who might have been dead.Some admirable men in white coats at the Charing Cross Hospital tiedup my small injury, and I went out again into the Strand. I felt uponme even a kind of unnatural youth; I hungered for something untried.So to open a new chapter in my life I got into a hansom cab.

If you want to know more about this Gilbert Keith Chesterton....

...Click on the American Chesterton Society link and then click on...well, you'll see when you get there.

About Us

For the past few weeks, the UNL Chesterton society has been meeting in 2105 Neihardt to discuss G.K. Chesterton's essay collection "Tremendous Trifles." For various reasons, this discussion has augumented (and perhaps replaced) by this site. Write articles or post comments on your Chestertonian insights, so that we can all learn to live the almost unbearably good life he loved!