I’ve been making another trip through G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I’ve found reading this book both incredible and overwhelming. There is so much. So much to think about, enjoy, react to. Just the language and word choice alone is a delight. He uses words and ideas like Robin Hood uses a bow and arrow. It’s overwhelming because there is just so much. I need to reread sections to stay with it. But it’s well worth it.
Chesterton was a Roman Catholic who despised Calvinism, but this Protestant lover of God’s poetic providence receives his words with deep gratitude.
Chapter 4 of Orthodoxy, The Ethics of Elfland, is one of my favorites. This is for lots of reasons. I won’t go into them all here, but wanted to share a section that touches on gratitude. Chesterton is very quotable and we see quotes from him everywhere. That’s great and I am one who loves to post them. But I’m going to try to post some slightly bigger sections –a paragraph or so– to give some context and see how that works. I hope you’ll read and enjoy.
But though (like the man without memory in the novel) we walk the streets with a sort of half-witted admiration, still it is admiration. It is admiration in English and not only admiration in Latin. The wonder has a positive element of praise. This is the next milestone to be definitely marked on our road through fairyland. I shall speak in the next chapter about optimists and pessimists in their intellectual aspect, so far as they have one. Here I am only trying to describe the enormous emotions which cannot be described. And the strongest emotion was that life was as precious as it was puzzling. It was an ecstacy because it was an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity. The goodness of the fairy tale was not affected by the fact that there might be more dragons than princesses; it was good to be in a fairy tale. The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth? From CCEL.org