Posts tagged ‘home’

July 2, 2017

public life is not larger than private life, but smaller

From G.K. Chesterton’s “Turning Inside Out” in Fancies vs. Fads, 1923:

The passage from private life to public life … is always of necessity a passage from a greater work to a smaller one, and from a harder work to an easier one. And that is why most of the moderns do wish to pass from the great domestic task to the smaller and easier commercial one. They would rather provide the liveries of a hundred footmen than be bothered with the love-affairs of one. They would rather take the salutes of a hundred soldiers than try to save the soul of one. They would rather serve out income-tax papers or telegraph forms to a hundred men than meals, conversation, and moral support to one. They would rather arrange the educational course in history or geography, or correct the examination papers in algebra or trigonometry, for a hundred childrcn, than struggle with the whole human character of one. For anyone who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons.

In another way there is something of illusion, or of irresponsibility, about the purely public function, especially in the case of public education. The educationist generally deals with only one section of the pupil’s mind. But he always deals with only one section of the pupils life. The parent has to deal, not only with the whole of the child’s character, but also with the whole of the child’s career. The teacher sows the seed, but the parent reaps as well as sows. The school-master sees more children, but it is not clear that he sees more childhood; certainly he sees less youth and no maturity. The number of little girls who take prussic acid is necessarily small. The boys who hang themselves on bed-posts, after a life of crime, are generally the minority. But the parent has to envisage the whole life of the individual, and not merely the school life of the scholar. …Everybody knows that teachers have a harassing and often heroic task, but it is not unfair to them to remember that in this sense they have an exceptionally happy task. The cynic would say that the teacher is happy in never seeing the results of his own teaching. I prefer to confine myself to saying that he has not the extra worry of having to estimate it from the other end. The teacher is seldom in at the death. To take a milder theatrical metaphor, he is seldom there on the night. But this is only one of many instances of the same truth: that what is called public life is not larger than private life, but smaller. What we call public life is a fragmentary affair of sections and seasons and impressions; it is only in private life that dwells the fullness of our life bodily.

August 31, 2014

the only mending is to come home

When you have gone too far, as I think he did, the only mending is to come home. Whether he is equal to it or not, this is his chance.

From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (184).

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May 1, 2014

Brewed from decades of agony

Poem by by Emily Dickinson.

THE RETURN.

Though I get home how late, how late!
So I get home, ‘t will compensate.
Better will be the ecstasy
That they have done expecting me,
When, night descending, dumb and dark,
They hear my unexpected knock.
Transporting must the moment be,
Brewed from decades of agony!

To think just how the fire will burn,
Just how long-cheated eyes will turn
To wonder what myself will say,
And what itself will say to me,
Beguiles the centuries of way!

October 13, 2013

all turned into foreign country

This passage from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome expresses the same insight as the passage below from G.K. Chesterton (about the joy of rediscovering our own homes):

Only three days before Roger, being a sailing ship, had tacked up the field against the wind to find his mother at the gate by Holly Howe with the telegram that had set them free for their adventure. Now he had no need to tack. He had no need to be a sailing ship. He was a real boy from a real ship, come ashore on business with his captain. Since yesterday the field path and the gate into the wood on the way to Darien and the farm at Holly Howe had all turned into foreign country. They were quite different places now that you came to them by water from an island of your own. They were not at all what they had been when you lived there and saw the island far away over the water. Coming back to them was almost the same thing as exploration. It was like exploring a place that you have seen in a dream, where everything is just where you expect it and yet everything is a surprise.

…Soon they were nearing their island, and just as Holly Howe had seemed strange, so now the island seemed home. It was delightful to see it coming nearer, and to think of the tents and the camp, and to see smoke blowing away over the trees and to know that it came from the mate’s fire. “It must be nearly dinner-time,” said Roger. “Meat pie,” said John. “Hullo, there’s the able-seaman at the look-out.” Titty was standing under the tall tree on Look-Out Point. She waved and disappeared. “She’s gone to tell Susan we’re coming,” said Roger.

Now, for comparison, see this passage from the opening of G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (chapt. I, “Introduction in Defence of Everything Else”):

I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again?

July 2, 2013

school is only a preparation for the home

From “Uneducating the Educated” in Common Sense 101: Lessons from G. K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist (103-107):

“The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their common sense” [Illustrated London News, September 7, 1929].

What common sense tells us is that most people have this simple basic desire: to have a happy family and a happy home. Chesterton says that “just now there is a tendency to forget that the school is only a preparation for the home, and not the home a mere jumping off place for school” [“The Best Toy in the World”, Merry-Go-Round, June 1924].

As is so often the case in the modern world, we have things exactly backwards. In the process of turning our children over to the public education system, we have turned our backs on the home and the family.

“The human house,” says Chesterton, “is a paradox for it is larger inside than out” [Fancies Versus Fads (London: Methuen, 1923), 196]. When we step out of the home, when we pass from private life to public life, we are passing from a greater work to a smaller one, and from a harder work to an easier one. And that is why most modern people wish to pass from the great domestic task to the smaller and easier commercial one. They would rather be in the business world serving the minor needs of a hundred different needs of a hundred different people than meeting all the major needs of just one person, which includes serving meals, conversation, and the moral support. They would rather teach a course in trigonometry to a hundred children than struggle with the whole human charter of one child. Chesterton says that anyone “who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons.” [Fancies Versus Fads, 202.]

“The truth is that the modern world has committed itself to two totally different and inconsistent conceptions about education. It is always trying to expand the scope of education; and always trying to exclude from it all religion and philosophy. But this is sheer nonsense.” [The Common Man (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1950), 168-69.]

“The one thing that is never taught by any chance in the atmosphere of public schools is this: that there is a whole truth of things, and that in knowing it and speaking it we are happy” [Illustrated London News, August 11, 1906].

December 14, 2011

men are homesick in their homes

October 4, 2011

forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy

According to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world.
…The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.

From chapter V “The Flag of the World” in Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.

June 27, 2011

no one ever did

From some reading with the kids yesterday in The Hobbit:

[Bilbo] did not, or course, expect that any one would remember that it was he who discovered all by himself the dragon’s weak spot; and that was just as well, for no one ever did.

(chapter 15, “The Gathering of the Clouds”)

Tolkien describes a character quality here that I can hardly imagine. Probably the top reason for this attribute is that Bilbo’s chief motivation, in all of his most heroic acts, is the thought of home (and of breakfasting upon eggs and bacon). Bilbo embodies the Ciceronian ideal of a bold public servant who longs only for the quiet life of his country estate.

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