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...

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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!