"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton on Turning Around

The tagline of by blog is a quote (from Chesterton of course): “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”  Nevertheless I fear that my posts have been growing deadly serious of late.  I’ve piled up studies and statistics, political opinions, and social commentary.  Little of it has been light, and even my attempts to be light probably haven’t reached that goal.  Chesterton himself, on the other hand, never had trouble taking a light-hearted approach to an important topic.  In this poem he puts a spin (yuk yuk) on the religious life as opposed to worldly pursuit of fame and praise.


I saw an old man like a child,
His blue eyes bright, his white hair wild,
Who turned for ever, and might not stop,
Round and round like an urchin’s top.

‘Fool,’ I cried, ‘while you spin round,
‘Others grow wise, are praised, are crowned.’
Ever the same round road he trod,
‘This is better: I seek for God.’

‘We see the whole world, left and right,
Yet at the blind back hides from sight
The unseen Master that drives us forth
To East and West, to South and North.

‘Over my shoulder for eighty years
I have looked for the gleam of the sphere of spheres.’
‘In all your turning, what have you found?’
‘At least, I know why the world goes round.’


Not a bad little dialogue to be squeezed into sixteen lines with perfect rhyme and meter.  It brings home the central point of the Christian understanding of God.  God is unseen, at least most of the time, but is the cause and driving force of the world and everything that happens.  Those who devote their lives to God will miss out on the easily visible measures that the world cares about: prestige and wealth and so forth.  From the world’s perspective, they will appear to be accomplishing nothing, as if they were moving in circles.  Yet at the end, they will truly know why the world goes round.


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