“Everybody Loves A Good Quote”

June 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today in 1936, G.K. Chesterton passed away.  I could post a hundred quotes from him and love each one better than the last.  He was amazing: a man whose writing turned paradoxes into swashbuckling adventures and philosophy into detective stories.  His no-nonsense language could seem strident, until you realized he was also the man who wrote: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”   My favorite Chesterton book is The Ball and The Cross, because he pits the religious man against the atheist in such a pithy, balanced way that by the end of the book, you root for both of them.  Chesterton keeps you from choosing a side just as surely as he keeps the fervent MacIan and the rigid Turnbull from finishing their long-sought duel.  When I read Chesterton, I want to cheer, I want to laugh and throw the book on the floor so I can clap and say why on earth didn’t I think of that!?  Chesterton makes me want to have deep, theological discussions at a dimly-lit pub with my friends over pints of ale.  And I don’t even drink ale.  So instead of raising a glass of ale to Gilbert Keith Chesterton, writer of the Father Brown mystery stories, philosopher extraordinaire, and Catholic, I will leave you with my favorite quotes of his.  After all, everyone loves a good quote.

“Well, we won’t quarrel about a word,” said the other, pleasantly.  “Why on earth not?” said MacIan, with a sudden asperity. “Why shouldn’t we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren’t important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn’t any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn’t there be a quarrel about a word? If you’re not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only things worth fighting about.”
The Ball and The Cross

“The cross cannot be defeated,” said MacIan, “for it is Defeat.”
The Ball and The Cross

The daughter was called a devotee. She left upon ordinary people the impression–the somewhat irritating impression–produced by such a person; it can only be described as the sense of strong water being perpetually poured into some abyss. She did her housework easily; she achieved her social relations sweetly; she was never neglectful and never unkind. This accounted for all that was soft in her, but not for all that was hard. She trod firmly as if going somewhere; she flung her face back as if defying something; she hardly spoke a cross word, yet there was often battle in her eyes. The modern man asked doubtfully where all this silent energy went to. He would have stared still more doubtfully if he had been told that it all went into her prayers.
The Ball and The Cross

“You always go to Mass,” answered the girl, opening her wide blue eyes, “and the Mass is very long and tiresome unless one loves God.”
The Ball and The Cross

“These people have rights.” “Rights!” repeated the unknown in a tone quite indescribable. Then he added with a more open sneer: “Perhaps they also have souls.” “They have lives!” said Turnbull, sternly; “that is quite enough for me. I understood you to say that you thought life sacred.” “Yes, indeed!” cried his mentor with a sort of idealistic animation. “Yes, indeed! Life is sacred–but lives are not sacred. We are improving Life by removing lives. Can you, as a free-thinker, find any fault in that?” “Yes,” said Turnbull with brevity.
The Ball and The Cross

We do not need the learned man to teach us the important things. We all know the important things, though we all violate and neglect them.
G.K. Chesterton in the Illustrated London News, October 8, 1910

Evil always takes advantage of ambiguity
G.K. Chesterton in Eugenics and other Evils

Sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists.
G.K. Chesterton in Eugenics and other Evils

“The attitude of women in such cases was indeed one of the paradoxes of the place. Most of the women were of the kind vaguely called emancipated, and professed some protest against male supremacy. Yet these new women would always pay to a man the extravagant compliment which no ordinary woman ever pays to him, that of listening while he is talking.”
G.K. Chesterton in The Man Who Was Thursday 

Beautiful things ought to mean beautiful things.
G.K. Chesterton in The Coloured Lands

A century or two hence Spiritualism may be a tradition and Socialism may be a tradition and Christian Science may be a tradition. But Catholicism will not be a tradition. It will still be a nuisance
and a new and dangerous thing.
G.K. Chesterton in The Catholic Church and Conversion, 1926

An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays.
G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

Right is right, even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong about it.
G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News May 11, 1907

God condescended to argue with Job, but the last Darwinian will not condescend to argue with you. He will inform you of your ignorance; he will not enlighten your ignorance.
And I will add this point of merely personal experience of humanity: when men have a real explanation they explain it, eagerly and copiously and in common speech, as Huxley freely gave it when he thought he had it. When they have no explanation to offer, they give short dignified replies, disdainful of the ignorance of the multitude.
G.K. Chesterton in the Illustrated London News, 7/17/1920

What is most lacking in modern psychology is the sentiment of Honour; the sentiment to which personal independence is vital and to which wealth is entirely incommensurate. I know very well that Honour had all sorts of fantasies and follies in the days of its excess. But that does not affect the danger of its deficiency, or rather its disappearance. The world will need, and need desperately, the particular spirit of the landowner who will not sell his land, of the shopkeeper who will not sell his shop, of the private man who will not be bullied or bribed into being part of a public combination; of what our fathers meant by the free man.
G.K. Chesterton in Come to Think

Sport is speechless poetry.
G.K. Chesterton in What I Saw in America

It would be the worst sort of insincerity, therefore, to conclude even so hazy an outline of so great and majestic a matter as the American democratic experiment, without testifying my belief that to this also the same ultimate test will come. So far as that democracy becomes or remains Catholic and Christian, that democracy will remain democratic. In so far as it does not, it will become wildly and wickedly undemocratic. Its rich will riot with a brutal indifference far beyond the feeble feudalism which retains some shadow of responsibility or at least of patronage. Its wage-slaves will either sink into heathen slavery, or seek relief in theories that are destructive not merely in method but in aim; since they are but the negations of the human appetites of property and personality.
G.K. Chesterton in What I Saw in America (1927)

I represent the jolly mass of mankind. I am the happy and reckless Christian.
G.K. Chesterton in the Daily News, 12/13/1907

The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.
G.K. Chesterton in The Methuselahite

Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.
G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

“Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”
G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

I found many of these quotes on http://gkchestertonquote.com/
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