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

Posts tagged ‘Thomas Aquinas’

Chesterton on The Atlantic on Chesterton

My buddy G. K. Chesterton recently got a nice write-up from The Atlantic.  This isn’t the first time, either.  That illustrious magazine has commented on the fellow before.  The current article, by James Parker, is a delight to read dribbles out quotes from the man himself, mainly from well-known works but also from a few obscure ones.  It offers an introduction and celebration of the enormous variety of Chesterton’s work, and tries to communicate the unique way that Chesterton pulls our spirits up into the heavens with succinct but magical wordsmithing.

That said, Parker does stumble at one point by describing Chesterton with the phrase “live wire”, and that brings us to today’s quote from St. Thomas Aquinas:

St. Francis was the son of a shopkeeper, or middle class trader; and while his whole life was a revolt against the mercantile life of his father, he retained none the less, something of the quickness and social adaptability which makes the market hum like a hive. In the common phrase, fond as he was of green fields, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. He was what American millionaires and gangsters call a live wire. It is typical of the mechanistic moderns that, even when they try to imagine a live thing, they can only think of a mechanical metaphor from a dead thing. There is such a thing as a live worm; but there is no such thing as a live wire. St. Francis would have heartily agreed that he was a worm; but he was a very live worm. Greatest of all foes to the go-getting ideal, he had certainly abandoned getting, but he was still going.

(No, I did not make a mistake here.  That’s a comment about St. Francis of Assisi from Chesterton’s book about St. Thomas.)

What should I write here?

I started by blog on Friday and made one post.  Today is Sunday and I’m writing my second post.  I can’t really think of anything worth writing about.  I’m already out of ideas and running short of inspiration.  Perhaps this blogging project wasn’t such a good idea after all.

The thing is that I don’t want to fill up my blog with mediocrity.  I feel that an excessive amount of mindless nonsense spilling out onto blogs is one of the plagues of modern times.  Back in ancient times, people were well aware of the dangers of too much writing.  Seneca once said: “The world suffers from an excess of literature as much as from an excess of anything.”  Cicero: “Times are bad.  Children disobey their parents and everyone is writing a book.”  Even Plato worried that there was too much writing going on.

Of course this attitude didn’t last forever.  During the Middle Ages the Scholastics believed that books were generally good.  They wanted as many people as possible to be literate and they wanted literate people to read as many books as possible.  By and large, the modern world still accepts those notions.  People in the Middle Ages were generally quite sensible and we could benefit quite a bit from studying them and their ideas.

Nevertheless, I’m not quite willing to blow off Seneca and his ilk just yet.  Even if they fretted a bit too much about the plague of books, there’s still a certain amount of wisdom is judiciously curtailing one’s own writing.  So I’ll end this post right here.

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