Tuesday, July 30, 2013

DEADLY EARNEST: Saved by Chesterton and Father Christmas

A bit on the stressed side this afternoon and unable to work on the things before me, I opened my Kindle and low and behold out popped:
The Shop of Ghosts 
Tremendous Trifles, 1909
[Chesterton, G.K. (2011-10-20). In Defense of Sanity (p. 52). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.] .

This little short story was so fine; it made me laugh until I cried. After reading it, I didn't go back to work, but took the better course and went out for a walk on a lazy summer afternoon here in Kyiv. As old or wise as we can become or think ourselves to be, we sometimes (for the sake of our mental hygiene) need a firm push out the door. Thank you, G.K!

Miners once upon a time took canaries with them underground to forewarn them of the presence of dangerous gasses which could suffocate or just plain explode. The deadly earnest which is abroad these days must be similar to that odorless gas down in the mine-shaft, which first killed canaries but perchance thus alerted saved the miners by warning them to escape. It would be great if we had a similar test or control to alert us when deadly earnest begins to get the upper hand.

This business of being so terribly earnest is more of a problem in the world than you would think. What do I mean by "deadly earnest"? Well, for starters, let's take as an example the engrossed way that people from the whole spectrum and with varied interests followed every step of the Holy Father's activity at WYD in Rio. The Holy Father certainly worked hard these days, but I really don't think you could say that he was engrossed in it all. He came most paternally and warmly, and well, he seemed to enjoy himself no end while imparting his important message. He worked hard, yes, but why would we want to do what he did not; why do we have to analyze his every step?

Chesterton has an awful lot of fun with this little short story or vignette, "The Shop of Ghosts". It is totally preposterous and deliciously so. There is nothing to be discussed or diagnosed, but only enjoyed. We can't live from fantasy or fairy tale, but we can no less live without the gratuitous than we can live without fresh air. We need a little folly of the respectable sort from a man like Chesterton.

Oxygenate yourself, if you would, please and don't be forever trying to reduce things to the must of thus and so. I really don't think hard work has ever done anyone in. Deadly earnest? Well, maybe yes!

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