A Second Childhood

March 13, 2013

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Chelsea at the arboretum.

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Rainbows at the Natural History Museum.

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Leslie on our roof.

 

The last couple of days have been almost completely empty, which, seeing as I’m not watching TV, has meant sitting in my back yard reading for hours and hours. My housemates wander in and out of the house, cooking and chatting and doing homework, and these are my favorite types of days.

Christian is playing at South by Southwest (a music festival in Texas) this week, and I love getting his behind-the-scenes texts about how these things work. I’ve told him more than once that I cannot imagine how someone could possibly like “playing a show”—that is, deciding what to do with your arms and legs for an hour on stage in front of a bunch of strangers—but I’m so glad that he does, and that he is getting to do it so much more than he imagined. And even though I sometimes wish I could go with him (like in May, when he tours in Europe, for example), I am also extremely happy to sit here in the sun with my books.

I spent Monday with G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and yesterday with Christina Rosetti’s poetry. Monday was a much more enjoyable day, partly because I do not read poetry well, and partly because Ms. Rosetti loves to write about death. (A topic which, if I may digress for a little bit, I decided to embrace yesterday [much easier to do outside in the sun]…I was thinking about what it means to view life well [in light of death, that is], and I realized Lent can speak to this question. Lent is about loving good things [even big good things, like life] in a good way…holding things tightly without breaking or smothering them. I’m almost positive I’ve read and heard this idea before—that Lent is able learning how to live well and die well—but coming to it organically was nice.) (Also, I really am sorry for all the parenthesis and dashes and ellipses… I just don’t know how else to say things.)

ANYWAY, I loved Orthodoxy. I tried to read it a few years ago but got caught up on all the modern philosophy stuff, so this time around—after just having read a lot of the guys Chesterton is directly addressing—was much better. There were so many parts to love, and I will maybe write about it for my next hundred blog posts, but for now, I want to share just one idea.

At the end of his book, Chesterton takes a few pages to talk about the grounds on which he submits to Christianity as a faith: “that is, that the Christian Church in its practical relation to my soul is a living teacher, not a dead one.”

In light of this, he says,

Since I have accepted Christendom as a mother and not merely as a chance example, I         have found Europe and the world once more like the little garden where I stared at the    symbolic shapes of cat and rake; I look at everything with the old elvish ignorance and expectancy. This or that rite or doctrine may look as ugly and extraordinary as a rake; but I have found by experience that such things end somehow in grass and flowers.

And later, “I have come into my second childhood.”

And whereas a few years ago none of this would have made sense to me, now it is just so beautiful. I don’t know from where or when this wonder he is talking about came to me, but I know I have some of it—I recognize his words.

Sometimes I am afraid I will wake up and not know it anymore, but I think I will be okay even then. It’s enough to have it, even for a little while. And even if it could be stored up and saved for later, that not only seems irreverent…it also ruins all the fun.

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Too good to be told

September 27, 2012

I recently discovered the wonders of scanning! So I have been scanning collages lately, some old some new. I made this one a couple summers ago, I think. My love for tacky rainbow color schemes still runs strong.

 “Syme remembered those wild woes of yesterday as one remembers being afraid of a Bogy in childhood.” The Man Who Was Thursday

Last week for my Mysterious Fiction class, I re-read G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. And this time, I was even more struck by the “things are not what they seem”-ness of the story, and, more precisely, the “things are not nearly as terrifying as they seem”-ness.

Over and over, Gabriel Syme’s worst enemies take off their masks and become friends, and over and over, he reflects on how silly he was to ever have been afraid.

In a lot of ways I am still in the “yesterday” portion of the above quote, and still afraid of a few Bogies (bogy plural?) myself. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see beyond disguises, but every now and then I get a glimpse.

This Tuesday my priest drove to La Mirada to meet me for coffee, and I asked his advice about all this. I told him that I am afraid of a lot of things that I don’t need to be afraid of (and some things I’m just not sure if I need to be afraid of), but I don’t know how to stop. I went into our meet-up thinking that maybe if he just told me the right thing, or reminded me of a truth that I had forgotten, then I could stop being afraid.

But to my surprise, he told me that he wasn’t going to try to convince me that my Bogies weren’t real monsters. Instead, he told me to ask God for the gift of faith. He said it is very important for me to know that this is a gift–this faith, this ability to believe that things are not as they seem, even when we can’t see behind the disguises–and that asking God for it everyday is not the same as trying to muster it up everyday. My only task is to ask and wait.

Maybe the answers I want will come, and maybe something else will instead.

At the end of The Man Who Was Thursday, Chesterton leaves his readers with more questions than answers. Unlike the Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories we read earlier in the semester, the mystery in this book isn’t really ever solved. There are intricate hints, but I think one reason I love the book so much is that I am left with a sense that the mystery is too big for my small head.

A few weeks ago, my teacher read us an excerpt of an essay Chesterton wrote about the ending of the book of Job (where, instead of answering all of Job’s questions, God asks Job His own questions). Chesterton writes:

“Job has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design.”

I think this is why Chesterton’s idea of a good mystery is so different from our classical idea of mystery. For Sherlock Holmes, reason correctly applied solves everything. For Chesterton, reason can only go so far before things start getting strange. But a good sort of strange, because the One behind the strange is good. As Chesterton says later in his essay,

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.