Tag Archives: G.K. Chesterton

Where modesty was never meant to be.

Chesterton in Brighton, 1935

“Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth: this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason…

“The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping: not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.”

― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Moving toward civilization.

Today was my house blessing of Theophany. I was glad it had been delayed a few weeks after the feast on January 6th, because I wanted to put the house in order beforehand, especially the construction/storage areas that were still in process until a few weeks ago.

So as I was getting things spiffed up for today’s event, I thought, this is the time to share a few carefully chosen images, for those — maybe only a very few? — of my readers who are interested in the indoor physical landscape of my days.

My total remodeling project is not done, but nothing stops me now from living fully in my three new rooms — that is, once I unpack and figure out how to arrange things. I’ve bought a few pieces of furniture and have taken a carload of stuff to the thrift stores, but there is still a lot of processing and figuring out to do. I ordered a cozy armchair that won’t be here until about Pascha (May), and I can’t finalize the arrangement of the morning/sewing room until I get that.

Above is a photo of the morning room from a year ago, and there are lots of Before and In-Process pictures in a post aptly named: Hodgepodge. I don’t intend to show any of the remaining hodgepodge or mess. Instead, I picked out a few tidier scenes or items to focus on.

Above, you can see through the doorway at left into my bedroom. My goddaughter Mary’s father A. made the cabinet doors for me and trimmed out everything. It was so heartening to have someone who was enthusiastic about doing the work and even communicated with me about it! Not to mention the beauty of the result. He had no part in the work that I complain about farther down.

I’m sure I’ll be rearranging sewing things again and again, but for now, I have all my fabric and projects in the cabinets in the proper room. I did remove five boxes full of fabric from my stash, which I will give away, but I kept all of my Waldorf doll supplies. And all of the luscious fabric I brought home from India.

The cluttered environment has disturbed me inwardly, I always knew that, but when I managed to open up floor space and dresser tops, and whittle down the mass of unpacked boxes to take up less and less space in corners… why, I felt like a new person, becoming civilized! It was very calming.

At right is an unfinished area of my bedroom, which had to get repaired after pulling out an old built-in cabinet. There was a nail still sticking out so I put up this hanging I found in a box, that I made eons ago. I still have a lot of painting to do (I should say, for someone to do) in my room, and a few other rooms of the house.

The new bathroom is pleasantly boring in beiges and white, tile and granite. I wanted it that way so I could have colorful towels and shower curtain. That storage cabinet at left I found at Home Depot and bought another one for the master bath.

I have so many interesting little tables that I am fond of for various reasons. This one is a hundred years old at least, and used to live at my husband’s family’s summer cabin. I have never known it as the patio table it was obviously designed to be; it always sits along a wall as a shelf, and its known to be wobbly on its own. But I will probably keep on keeping it, at least while I am in a big house.

My closet got refurbished, and I added a little dressing table to replace what got lost when the two rooms were linked by a door in that spot. It was so long between the time I made decisions and the completion of those shelves, I don’t remember how I ended up with melamine, which is really cheap. So I bought a piece of plastic to put on the dressing table top, to protect it from getting wrecked. The next picture shows the view from the bathroom.

On the dressing table right now I have a Valentine’s Day card I gave to my husband a really long time ago; and an icon of St. Porphyrios.

This is the one bank of drawers I have in the closet. Because it has nice drawer pulls it looks upscale and makes the closet feel fancy — until I want to open the bottom drawer, which as you can see sits right on the floor. So that doesn’t work very well. The shelving units didn’t fit nicely in the crooked old closet space and there are shims and gaps everywhere. Like a 1-2″ space at the ceiling, big enough to collect dust and spiders, but too small to store anything — except for our entire vinyl collection! Maybe I will find some other belongings that are conveniently short and flat, that need storing.

I have oh so many paintings, pictures and other beloved items that eventually I will find new places for, on the walls of several rooms, after the painting and furniture arranging are complete. I’ll leave you with one that I had forgotten about, a little Peruvian farm scene made in Peru, a style of tapestry that was sold in a local shop in a past era. One more thing I am looking forward to incorporating in my newly civilized, homey decor.

“It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can.”

-G.K. Chesterton

Rocking then and now.

“Americans have a taste for…rocking-chairs. A flippant critic might suggest that they select rocking-chairs so that, even when they are sitting down, they need not be sitting still. Something of this restlessness in the race may really be involved in the matter; but I think the deeper significance of the rocking-chair may still be found in the deeper symbolism of the rocking-horse. I think there is behind all this fresh and facile use of wood a certain spirit that is childish in the good sense of the word; something that is innocent, and easily pleased.”

-G.K. Chesterton in What I Saw in America, 1922

This is the rocking chair I love best, because it is mine, and I have a lot of history with it. Before I was even engaged to be married, I visited the summer cabin of my boyfriend’s family, where this chair sat against one wall of the living room of “La Casita.” Only a big teddy bear sat in it back then, perched on the dome of the cushion whose springs had long ago sprung out of any human’s comfort zone.

And so it remained for decades, until the cabin was sold and we acquired the chair for this house, and had it refurbished. I just ran across a remnant of the upholstery fabric we chose, quite bright compared to the faded seat that still wears it.

I’ve owned three other rocking chairs over the years, and none was as satisfactory as the current one. The first was a platform rocker that had belonged to another grandma of my husband; the whole chair was too big for me. I nursed all my babies in that chair, and spent quite a lot of time in it over many years, filling in the extra space and propping up my arms with pillows.

Another rocker came from one of the grandmas. It had a nice feel but was unbearably and incurably squeaky. And then there was the one found in the neighborhood with a “FREE” tag on it. How could I not bring it home? But it didn’t fit in with our decor, however you would describe that, and had too big a rocking-footprint for any room in the house. Out it went again.

I’ve realized by this time that on my own I am not much of a rocker, no matter how romantic I feel about the chairs that help one do it. Even though in many pictures of me opening Christmas presents, I am sitting in one.

As I recall, some babies like being rocked, and some don’t. I wonder if a liking for rocking as an infant is predictive of certain personality traits later in life? I don’t know if my mother rocked me, but my father built this rocking horse for us, which I have no memory of. Maybe I wasn’t into rocking on it, either! It looks like it might have required some skill to ride and shoot at the same time.

I wonder if people who use rocking chairs when they are restless,
or to rock away their worries,
are doing more rocking these days?

A reed with the reeds in the river.

In the middle of the night when I have lost my way back to the Land of Nod, I sometimes listen to a book that I wouldn’t mind falling asleep to; that usually indicates one I’ve already read. Recently I chose The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, which seems to work well enough. It’s been so long since I read it in print, I do hope I might go back and really pay attention again one day. The feeling of exhilaration that book gave me still lingers.

In the meantime, the nighttime stories remind me of my ample supply of quotations by the author that are always useful for the opposite purpose, to make me wake up and think. The one I chose for today is both by and about Chesterton, from a lecture by Dale Ahlquist, which I noted that I’d found on the Chesterton Society site, a lovely place to browse if you want to read more.

“Not only has no one expected him to write about religion in a secular newspaper, he writes about religion in a way no one expects. Not surprising then, that he says religion must be paradoxical. Chesterton was already becoming famous for his paradoxes, and many of his readers and admirers assumed that he was being merely paradoxical by defending religion in general and Christianity in particular. But the jovial Chesterton was quite serious even if he was quite funny.

‘All paradoxers,’ he writes, ‘if they be also honest men, are aiming joyfully at their own destruction. We have paradoxes, and it is our effort, day and night, to turn them into truisms.’ What he is striving to achieve is not the paradox, but the platitude. ‘Every man who is fighting for his own beliefs is fighting to take it away from himself.  He may be clever in dull places and important in mean places; but in the land that he desires he will be nothing—a reed with the reeds in the river.’ A truism is a popular truth, a paradox an unpopular one. But they are both true.”

Dale Ahlquist is President of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton and has written five books about Chesterton.