Miscellaneous snippets about one of the greatest literary post men of the twentieth century
In those early years of the twentieth century, a quick-moving age that was experiencing the fruits of industrialization and new trends, he pushed for tradition. He argued for the need to preserve the family and to honor women's domestic role. He bashed big business and big government, condemning unbridled capitalism, socialism and overweening bureaucracy in its private and public forms. He pushed for an economic system (called “distributism”) that holds that ownership should be distributed as widely as possible. He praised the little and ordinary in an age that was becoming increasingly enamored with the big and extravagant.
Chesterton's meandering style and anti-Zeitgeist ideas notwithstanding, he appeals strongly today to people who have become disenchanted with aspects of our culture. The materialism, the broken families, the vast immorality. Chesterton saw it all coming. He was one of the first to observe that the psychoanalyst's couch is merely a secularized version of the confessional. He saw that big government meant trouble for the average man years before the average man experienced it. He said society would worry excessively about health, become overly-concerned with sports, and turn to increasingly loud and depraved forms of entertainment.
Reading Chesterton is like taking a leap of faith. By diving in, thinking you're hitting water and will start swimming. Then you find that you're in a substance more like quick sand: difficult to swim in and downright weird to swim in and sometimes thinking you might want to quit and let yourself sink.
Paradox sits at the beginning of Chesterton, which is fitting because it sits at the beginning of creation. There is something at the root of existence that is a contradiction. Chesterton never says what it is–we can't, after all, really know; it goes to the root–the highest–of things, and those things are only for God to understand. He just accepts the contradiction, the mystery, and proceeds from there. The mystic “allows one thing to be mysterious” so everything else can be lucid.