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October 2009
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Clear idealism

G.K. Chesterton in Heretics:

“A modern morality, on the other hand, can only point with absolute conviction to the horrors that follow breaches of law; its only certainty is a certainty of ill. It can only point to imperfection. It has no perfection to point to. But the monk meditating upon Christ of Buddha has in his mind an image of perfect health, a thing of clear colours and clean air. He may contemplate this ideal wholeness and happiness far more than he ought; he may contemplate it to the neglect or exclusion of essential things; he may contemplate it until he has become a dreamer or a driveller but still it is wholeness and happiness that he is contemplating. He may even go mad; but he is going mad for the love of sanity. But the modern student of ethics, even if he remains sane, remains sane from an insane dread of insanity.”

His example a bit later in the same chapter:

“A young man may keep himself from vice by continually thinking of disease. He may keep himself from it also by continually thinking of the Virgin Mary. There may be question about which method is more reasonable, or even about which is the more efficient. But surely there can be no question about which is the more wholesome.”

If Mr Chesterton weren’t so set on Christianity and Catholicism, then I would absolutely agree with what he is saying in these bits. Because of our difference in religion, however, we’d label each other as Heretics. I think I am in love with this book and possibly Mr Chesterton. Bear only needs to not be worried because Mr Chesterton has long been dead.

One last bit:

“But the truth is that the ordinary honest man, whatever vague account he may have given of his feelings, was not either disgusted or even annoyed at the candor of the moderns. What disgusted him, and very justly, was not the presence of a clear realism, but the absence of a clear idealism.”