As a designer naturally I breeze through a lot of style magazines. My latest was a write up on white paint (one of my favorites, their isn’t much I wouldn’t paint white). I ran across this quote by G. K Chesterton, an English Philosopher. In the article, I was immediately in tune with his take, “white is not a mere absence of color, it is a shining and affirmative thing: as fierce as red, as definite as black.” Never having heard of him, I thought “Ha, he stated my own thoughts so purely, who is this G. K.?”
A week later I ran across another quote by him online with a Christian undertone, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” (Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910) This quote I found relevant and profound in a rather simple way. Because Christian life has largely “been found difficult and left untried” we don’t allow the teachings of Christ to speak to our heart.
Shortly later when surfing one of my favorite essayist’s website, John O’Brien, I noticed he’s featuring a few chapters from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. It was lengthy and a bit rough considering it was written with references of a past era, but what I found was these same scenarios Chesterton describes exist today. Here’s what he said about secularists: “…they do not destroy orthodoxy; they only destroy political courage and common sense…. The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. The Titans did not scale heaven; but they laid waste the world.” I find this comforting and wonder, why haven’t I heard of this G. K. Chesterton?”
Then the very next day, reading the Notre Dame magazine over lunch I see they’ve done an article on G.K when he was invited to Notre Dame 80 years ago during Prohibition to give several lectures to the students and faculty. Okay, I wonder for the final time “who is this guy and why haven’t I heard of him before?”
I decide to look up this G.K. on Wiki. Turns out we have a lot in common. Both Catholic converts, he was born on May 29th and I April 29th, 100 years apart. And we both have English heritage. G.K. was born in London. But what I then uncover astonished me. President of the American Chesterton Society, Dale Ahlquist, puts it best, “He defended ‘the common man’ and common sense. He defended the poor. He defended the family. He defended beauty. And he defended Christianity and the Catholic Faith. These don’t play well in the classroom, in the media, or in the public arena. And that is probably why he is neglected. The modern world prefers writers who are snobs, who have exotic and bizarre ideas, who glorify decadence, who scoff at Christianity, who deny the dignity of the poor, and who think freedom means no responsibility.”
So now I see better why he’s been obscured. But as I discover more I find he wrote a book called The Everlasting Man, which led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian and his magnitude of writings reached heights of hundreds of books, hundreds of poems, five plays, five novels, and some two hundred short stories, with contributions to over 200 other books. He wrote over 4000 newspaper essays, including 30 years worth of weekly columns for the Illustrated London News, and 13 years of weekly columns for the Daily News. His writing remains as timely and as timeless today as when it first appeared.