Saturday, April 01, 2006

Dr. Thursday's "Favourite GKC Quotation"... from GKC's The Everlasting Man!

Get the quote--and the story of why it's the Doctor's favorite--here!
[Regarding pagan Rome in the last years B.C.] ... It was something in the sense of impotence and despair with which men shook their fists vainly at the stars, as they saw all the best work of humanity sinking slowly and helplessly into a swamp. They could easily believe that even creation itself was not a creation but a perpetual fall, when they saw that the weightiest and worthiest of all human creations was falling by its own weight. They could fancy that all the stars were falling stars; and that the very pillars of their own solemn porticos were bowed under a sort of gradual Deluge. To men in that mood there was a reason for atheism that is in some sense reasonable. Mythology might fade and philosophy might stiffen; but if behind these things there was a reality, surely that reality might have sustained things as they sank. There was no God; if there had been a God, surely this was the very moment when He would have moved and saved the world.
The life of the great civilisation went on with dreary industry and even with dreary festivity. It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end. A convenient compromise had been made between all the multitudinous myths and religions of the Empire; that each group should worship freely and merely give a sort of official flourish of thanks to the tolerant Emperor, by tossing a little incense to him under his official title of Divus. Naturally there was no difficulty about that; or rather it was a long time before the world realised that there ever had been even a trivial difficulty anywhere. The members of some eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. The incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might
be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun.
Imagine it, for a moment. We live in the most powerful society Earth has ever seen. We enjoy prosperity and peace unlike any people that have ever lived. All the while, we're haunted. We see the corruption within the hearts of our countrymen grow. We watch as oppression becomes the order of the day. We see the separation between the historically propertied and property-less grow into a chasm. And all around us, we wonder, "Is this all there is?"

Somehow, we understand it. We're doomed. We've reached the height of our culture, and we're not fulfilled. Something is missing. We long for some mystery that we can't hope to understand. And that mystery does not answer us.

In that time, when Pagan Rome began her long surrender to despair, Christ entered the world. Born of a woman in a humble province, He is the hope in which the Romans had sought in vain. I agree with the Doctor:
GKC captures the pathos of the "Eucatastrophic drama" with unmatched brilliance: I am not sure that even Tolkien surpasses this Chestertonian retelling of the Eucatastrophic drama of our history! Indeed. When I read this, I felt, and I still feel, for a fleeting instant, the Great Amazement which many wise men sought (and still seek) to find, and have not found. For a moment, I feel as the ancient Romans must have felt. In the empty string between the paragraphs, the "if statement" succeeded and as we say, the "then-clause" was taken. By the nothingness of that empty string, Chesterton denotes the moment when God did move and save the world.
Go read the whole thing! Then, thank the good Doctor. And tell him a Fool sent you!