Posts Tagged ‘G. K. Chesterton’

Chesterton’s Everlasting Man, Introduction [quotes]

05 Dec

The point of this book, in other words, is that the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. And a particular point of it is that the popular critics of Christianity are not really outside it. They lllll are on a debatable ground, in every sense of the term. They are doubtful in their very doubts. Their criticism has taken on a curious tone; as of a random and illiterate heckling. Thus they make current and anti-clerical cant as a sort of small-talk. They will complain of parsons dressing like parsons; as if we should be any more free if all the police who shadowed or collared us were plain clothes detectives. Or they will complain that a sermon cannot be interrupted, and call a pulpit a coward’s castle; though they do not call an editor’s office a coward’s castle. It would be unjust both to journalists and priests; but it would be much truer of journalist. The clergyman appears in person and could easily be kicked as he came out of church; the journalist conceals even his name so that nobody can kick him. They write wild and pointless articles and letters in the press about why the churches are empty, without even going there to find out if they are empty, or which of them are empty.

Now the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard. He does not judge Christianity calmly as a Confucian would; he does not judge it as he would judge Confucianism.

For those in whom a mere reaction has thus become an obsession, I do seriously recommend the imaginative effort of conceiving the Twelve Apostles as Chinamen. In other words, I recommend these critics to try to do as much justice to Christian saints as if they were Pagan sages.


Stella’s Coffeehaus and Jasmine Pouchong Tea

13 Aug

In my search for alternatives to Starbucks, I’ve happened upon Stella’s at the recommendation of our friend, Wanderer Jen.

Stella’s is located in Denver at 1476 S. Pearl street between Florida and Arkansas. The place is huge. It seems they connected two older townhouses resulting in several large rooms with different atmospheres. There’s additional seating outside on the front porch.

Tonight I’m drinking Jasmine Pouchong tea. Jasmine is one of my favorite teas, probably due to all the Jasmine tea my family had with Dim Sum and other Chinese food when I was growing up. As I got my computer set up for a few blog posts, the refreshing aroma of the Jasmine tea drifted to my nose as a reminder of my unfinished series of posts about coffee and tea places as Starbucks alternatives.

The final straw for this move was Starbucks’ choice to spend profits to lobby governments on controversial issues unrelated to their products and business, about which I’ve already written. Another reason relates to G. K. Chesterton’s political and economic model of Distributism, as I read in The Outline of Sanity, which includes a very strong emphasis on small business and shopping locally.

interior of stella's coffeehaus

Stella’s is clearly a liberal establishment, with Obama stickers on the door and mints mocking Sarah Palin for sale near the entrance. Yet even if the owners decide to use company profits to lobby government, it won’t have near the power of Starbucks, which is funneling money from stores around the world to lobby state governments one by one.

The tea choices are plentiful, both loose-leaf hand-bagged teas and blooming teas. The Wi-Fi is said to work on occasion, yet tonight I’m again connected through my cell phone’s data connection. Though it’s crowded, there are still many tables of various sizes and shapes and with unmatched wooden chairs available.

I feel strangely old at Stella’s, and out of place if I don’t have my (work supplied) MacBook Pro with me. It feels like a college campus common area, with many students working on homework, others flirting, others stating quips loudly as if they’ve reached epiphanies of eloquence by repeating theories they don’t understand but have heard from their professors.

This creates an environment in people and conversation that is undesirable when I seek to read or write, but I’m able to block this out enough to enjoy the wooden furniture and brick walls when I’m alone. Yet the loud (and giggly) atmosphere would make this place fine for talking with friends or playing a game.

Solid Grounds is my new place of choice, but they don’t stay open too late. While not open 24 hours, Stella’s has a better environment, better tea, and much more seating than Fireside Books & Coffee.

Verdict: Stella’s is my choice when I’m out later than Solid Grounds is open and I have enough time for the extra drive past Fireside.


Posted in Places


Hero With a Thousand Faces: Tragedy and Comedy (The Monomyth, chapter 2)

25 Jul

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand FacesThe happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.  p 25-26

Again Campbell’s worldview provides the driving source behind and the limitations of his research into the Monomyth. His religion (a term which G. K. Chesterton defined as one’s basic understanding of everything) leads inevitably to hopelessness. To Campbell, every story with a happy ending is a deception.

Campbell reasons that since even “the envied of the world” “know what bitterness of failure, loss,” etc. (p 27-28), we value tragedy higher than comedy, unlike the Greeks. It’s more true to life.

But was comedy – a life of happy endings – more true to life for the Greeks? We’ve got advancements in science, medicine, philosophy, and more. We don’t tend toward tragedy because it’s true to our lives, but the Greek life was somehow characterized by happy endings. We tend toward tragedy because of our worldview.

Campbell says that we shouldn’t read comedies – stories with happy endings – as contradictions to reality, but “as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man…because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, [the objective world] is beheld as though transformed.”

That is – don’t let this challenge your hopeless worldview, your instructions are to pretend. To behold the world as though it is transformed, knowing all the while that it isn’t, and all is damned. His proof? Myths that have happy endings are dream-like:

Even when the legend is of an actual historical personage, the deeds of victory are rendered, not in lifelike, but in dreamlike figurations; for the point is not that such-and-such was done on earth; the point is that, before such-and-such could be done on earth, this other, more important, primary thing had to be brought to pass within the labyrinth that we all know and visit in our dreams. – p 29

It’s true, myths are primarily about conveying truths, rather than true stories. It’s brilliant that values have been conveyed through human history through story.

A brief example of truth through untrue stories: One can learn about bravery from Spiderman or sacrifice from Superman much more than you can learn about bravery from the dictionary definition of those terms.

My questions:

  1. Tolkien’s comment to Lewis about the story of Jesus being the ultimate myth because it was the best, but also was actually true. The “deeds of victory” in the story of Jesus would primarily be the passion – his death, crucifixion and resurrection. These are recorded by multiple gospel writers in very earthy, lifelike, gory detail. It’s not make believe language, and the details that are there don’t fit in a fairy tale story. Is Jesus’ story an outlier the his rule? Are there others?
  2. How much of Campbell’s views of mythology are driven by his religion/worldview? In both chapters so far we’ve seen his worldview limit the discussion. Alternatively, Ecclesiastes sets a similar tone about all being meaningless/hopeless.
  3. With Campbell’s direction in the last chapter to take up the hero story as a necessary tool for human psychological health and now in this chapter as a way to pretend things are different (beholding the world as though transformed), it’s feeling like this book is largely a mental health manual for atheists, how to use stories when they have no stories to believe in.
  4. In the lack of a story to believe in, where do people turn? Is this why politicians become larger than life? (I’m reminded of how Obama promised the sea levels would lower just because he was nominated instead of Clinton.)

Dumping Starbucks

08 May

As a frequent customer and shareholder, I emailed Starbucks last week questioning information I had seen at , which claims that Starbucks is using their profits to lobby government to re-define marriage. Here’s the correspondence.

My wife and I frequent this Starbucks and several others. We are also shareholders. I’m at one location now and just saw a link to the “Dump Starbucks” website which reads in part:

On January 24th, 2012, Starbucks issued a memorandum declaring that same-sex marriage 'is core to who we are and what we value as a company.Starbucks also used its resources to participate in a legal case seeking to overturn a federal law declaring marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

We are very conscious of where our money goes and we do not support the overturning of laws in the pursuit of redefining millennia-old religious terminology. Is this information accurate? Is every purchase and every stock buy we make a contribution toward efforts to work against some of our core beliefs?

Thank you,


I received a response from Victor at Starbucks Customer Service:

Hello,Thank you for contacting Starbucks.

At Starbucks, we deeply respect the views of our customers and partners (employees) and recognize that there is genuine passion surrounding this topic. Starbucks has many constituents, and from time to time we will make decisions that are consistent with our values and heritage but may be inconsistent with the views of a particular group.

From our very earliest days, Starbucks has strived to create a company culture that puts our people first and treats everyone equitably. Our company has a lengthy history of leading on and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion, and we are proud to be one of several leading Northwest employers that support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality. We made this decision through the lens of humanity and our commitment to embracing diversity.

We have 200,000 people that work for Starbucks around the world and the equity of our brand has been defined by the relationship we have with our partners and the relationship they have with our customers. Put simply, the success we’ve enjoyed and the resulting shareholder value created are directly linked to the pride our partners have for the company they work for and their connection with the communities we serve.

If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know.



customer service

2 points:

Victor wrote that “…the success we’ve enjoyed and the resulting shareholder value created” are because of things like lobbying to redefine marriage. If that were the case, why isn’t there a big sign by the register of every Starbucks declaring they’re opposed to the traditional definition of marriage, that “money from every purchase is used to lobby government to redefine marriage?” Because it’s a lie. They benefit only because they hide their activities and hide behind ambiguity.

“Recognizing marriage equality” sounds nice, but also very ambiguous. As G. K. Chesterton wrote in Eugenics and Other Evils (a book I recommend, available online free), “evil always takes advantage of ambiguity,” so I followed up with an email seeking clarity:

Hello Victor,

Thanks for your response. As a frequent purchaser of products and a shareholder, I’m writing back for clarification, recognizing the power of the money I have invested in Starbucks.

What do you mean by “marriage equality”? My understanding is that currently any man and any woman can get married. The restrictions aren’t based on anything except 1) only 2 people and 2) a man and a woman.

There have historically been efforts to redefine marriage to change the legal marrying age, allow polygamy, or even change from gender restriction to discrimination based on sexual orientation, something like “2 same-sex people can be married, but only if they have sex with each other,” seemingly replacing the gender restriction with a sexual orientation or sexual activity restriction.

I’m guessing you aren’t the one who came up with the policy or the one who decided the rational of Starbucks’ using of my investment money to support the policy, but can you give some clarity of what the policy is that is being supported?


Customer and Shareholder

This is the crux of the issue in my mind. Currently, marriage is not defined as “a contract a man and a woman who love each other,” nor as “A man and a woman who have sex.” Both of those situations are plentiful outside of marriage. Legally, marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, recognized and encouraged through some limited benefits, such as additional tax filing options, because since Aristotle philosophers and politicians have seen the importance of strong family units. Certainly our perspective of what makes a family is changing.

Perhaps in reaction to their own parents not living out their marriage commitment, increasing numbers of couples are living together, having and raising children together without ever sealing the relationship with the commitment of a marriage certificate; others have a slightly more sophisticated gang mentality, where they see their group of friends as their family. Obama’s re-election campaign, with their Life of Julia, family is defined as one’s self and the government. As Debra J. Saunders, in the San Fransisco Chronicle, pointed out:

Until her son goes to kindergarten, Julia’s cartoon world does not depict any males, except one, as shown in this quote: “Under President Obama: Julia decides to have a child.”

What’s the goal of re-defining the family away from the natural father-mother-children unit? That’s a long and depressing story. For today, my point is just that it’s happening.

Anyway, Starbucks replied:


Thank you for contacting Starbucks.

From the current perspective we are using, we are classifying marriage equality as involving 2 consenting adults.

Thanks again for writing us.  If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.



customer service

2 consenting adults? Starbucks is lobbying for incest? That’s weird.

Of course they aren’t lobbying for incest. They’re just continuing to be ambiguous.

People cry out “discrimination!” when traditional marriage is upheld, because marriage is defined as:

A commitment of certain things between a man and a women.

What’s the discrimination? There’s nothing in the definition of marriage that explores or restricts based on sexual orientation; there’s nothing in the definition of marriage that restricts based on anything other than gender. One man, one woman. They may not love each other, they may not ever sleep together. The only discrimination is the declaration:

men and women are different.

Why does this drive the Left crazy?

Efforts to re-define marriage are seeking a sort of definition like:

Marriage is a commitment between any two “consenting adults” as long as they have government-approved sexual behavior.

It’s strange. 2 siblings who want the financial benefits of marriage can’t get married if they’re heterosexual. But they could have the financial benefits if they’re homosexual.

Efforts to redefine marriage in favor of gay marriage introduce never before seen discrimination into the definition of marriage.

Efforts to redefine marriage in favor of gay marriage also seek to declare by fiat that these relationships are as beneficial to society as traditional marriage, without any historical reference.

There are so many things we like about Starbucks: the atmosphere; the employees; the employee benefits; double blended java chip frappuccinos with an added pump of white mocha. Unfortunately, they’re using the money we give as customers and shareholders to add to the effort to weaken marriage, the foundation of society as Aristotle pointed out. They say we should be okay with it because our shares have increased in value.

I’m sure many people can be bought that easily. But not us. We’ve stopped spending at Starbucks unless we need to meet with someone there, and we’re selling our shares.


Occupy Wall Street and The Modern Martyr by Gilbert K. Chesterton

14 Oct

I read this article by G. K. Chesterton some time before the small groups of hookie-playing students and others started living in public parks. Not getting enough attention for their bad behavior, they began seeking to trigger consequences by breaking the law for trespassing (in Boston), pooping on police cars (New York), pretending to be hurt by non-moving police vehicles and damaging police property (also New York), and breaking various other laws.

The goal is to present a false image of suffering hoping to gain sympathy for their cause (being lazy and entitled).

It reminded me of this section from the Chesterton article (entire text linked below) about those fighting for causes that unlike OWS were worthwhile, but were using similar methods to induce small punishment:

I should advise modern agitators, therefore, to give up this particular method: the method of making very big efforts to get a very small punishment. It does not really go down at all; the punishment is too small, and the efforts are too obvious. It has not any of the effectiveness of the old savage martyrdom, because it does not leave the victim absolutely alone with his cause, so that his cause alone can support him. At the same time it has about it that element of the pantomimic and the absurd, which was the cruellest part of the slaying and the mocking of the real prophets. St. Peter was crucified upside down as a huge inhuman joke; but his human seriousness survived the inhuman joke, because, in whatever posture, he had died for his faith. The modern martyr of the Pankhurst type courts the absurdity without making the suffering strong enough to eclipse the absurdity. She is like a St. Peter who should deliberately stand on his head for ten seconds and then expect to be canonised for it.

via All Things Considered : The Modern Martyr by Gilbert K. Chesterton @ Classic Reader.


Ever feel like we’re living in rational despotism? G.K. Chesterton quote

21 Aug


Rational despotism—that is, selective despotism—is always a curse to mankind, because with that you have the ordinary man misunderstood and misgoverned by some prig who has no brotherly respect for him at all. But irrational despotism is always democratic, because it is the ordinary man enthroned.

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics


A Case for Marriage – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

14 Dec

Yesterday I wrote about how Christmas being about Christ would be better communicated by how Christians live that people attaching the abbreviated name “Xmas.”

Along the same lines is the debate about the governmental definition of “marriage.” There’s different cultural forces in the debate about that word. Christians are told that everyone is offended by them saying the name of the Federal Holiday “Christmas” so they must not say it. You must not ask people to be tolerant of your perspective. With marriage, there is a very purposeful effort to create a new definition, which would be legally forced on everyone to accept. One point being: you will not be tolerated for your beliefs (calling Christmas “Christmas”), but you will be legally required not to tolerate but to accept and have your children taught someone else’s beliefs (changing the millennials-old religious concept of “marriage.”)

This isn’t the first time in American history that marriage has come under attack. Possibly a greater attack was when divorce was made legally quick and easy. Today Christian marriage doesn’t stand out in American culture from non-Christian marriage. Christians, including multiple pastors by whom I’ve been taught, have divorced. We’ve caved. We’ve gone the convenient route of compromising our covenants. We’ve changed beliefs about marriage because it became legally and socially acceptable to break our bonds of covenant, which are supposed to symbolize the commitment of God to his people. We aren’t acting like Hosea, we’re acting like Hosea’s wife.

I’ve often thought that the case for Christian marriage wouldn’t be a verbal sparring or a federal constitutional amendment. (My libertarian side doesn’t think the federal government should get into this debate, but leave it up to the states. Neither side of the argument agrees with me as everyone would seemingly rather force their ideas on everyone rather than allow choice.) I’ve thought the stronger case would be for there to be a revolution regarding the theology of marriage among Christians.

G. K. Chesterton makes a surprisingly logical and secular case for Christian marriage in Orthodoxy. It’s part of a great chapter by a great book by perhaps my new favorite author – but I’ll write more on Chesterton and this book later. Here Chesterton is writing about his disagreement with his peers that believe a perfect utopia would be the dissolution of all personal bonds. He sees that as a dystopia. It seems that Chesterton’s comments lean toward a perspective that argues for protection of the marriage concept as something that is for the good of society.

What is your perspective? Here’s Chesterton:

I could never conceive or tolerate any Utopia which did not leave to me the liberty for which I chiefly care, the liberty to bind myself. Complete anarchy would not merely make it impossible to have any discipline or fidelity; it would also make it impossible to have any fun. To take an obvious instance, it would not be worth while to bet if a bet were not binding. The dissolution of all contracts would not only ruin morality but spoil sport. Now betting and such sports are only the stunted and twisted shapes of the original instinct of man for adventure and romance, of which much has been said in these pages. And the perils, rewards, punishments, and fulfilments of an adventure must be real, or the adventure is only a shifting and heartless nightmare. If I bet I must be made to pay, or there is no poetry in betting. If I challenge I must be made to fight, or there is no poetry in challenging. If I vow to be faithful I must be cursed when I am unfaithful, or there is no fun in vowing.

You could not even make a fairy tale from the experiences of a man who, when he was swallowed by a whale, might find himself at the top of the Eiffel Tower, or when he was turned into a frog might begin to behave like a flamingo. For the purpose even of the wildest romance results must be real; results must be irrevocable. Christian marriage is the great example of a real and irrevocable result; and that is why it is the chief subject and centre of all our romantic writing.

And this is my last instance of the things that I should ask, and ask imperatively, of any social paradise; I should ask to be kept to my bargain, to have my oaths and engagements taken seriously; I should ask Utopia to avenge my honour on myself.