Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Some Pleasurable Turns of Phrase

This morning I was woken up by a crop-duster. Or at least that's the only explanation that I can come up with for the extremely loud back-and-forth of noise outside and the glimpse of a bi-plane which I caught on the horizon. It is still going as I write this. It is 7:30 am.

I will be moving back to the city by the end of the month.

Last night in a moment of idleness I grabbed a book by Dale Ahlquist that had been shelved for awhile , who was writing about the common sense and paradoxes of G.K. Chesterton. I had forgotten what an intellectual delight and dose of inspiration is good old Gilbert Keith. Here are a few zingers that had me simultaneously chuckling with pleasure and shaking my head to clear the cobwebs of thought.

Regarding reason, logic, faith, and all that, he wrote in The Daily News on June 22, 1907:
"You can never prove your first statement or it would not be your first statement."

Ahlquist summed this up further from a similar Daily News essay from 1905 with the statement: "You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it." The astute among you will ask if that is a first statement or not. You will also be left thinking for awhile about what Chesterton has just so concisely and humorously put forward.

Here's another, regarding the arts, and specifically the paradox of an excellent story; which survives the test of time. He writes in the Illustrated London News on November 20, 1920:
"It has simplicity with a slight touch of strangeness . . . It is a tale just sufficiently imaginative to be worth telling, and yet immediately intelligible when told."

Or how about this one, from "Are the Artists Going Mad?", an essay written in Century Magazine in December of 1922:
"The notion that every generation proves the last generation worthless, and is in its turn proved worthless by the next generation, is an everlasting vision of worthlessness."

2 comments:

matthew a. wilkinson said...

I really don't know how Chesterton does it. What he does, he does better -SO MUCH BETTER- than anyone else. A league of his own.

Thanks for reminding me of that "worthless generation" quote. I remember running across it in a collection of Chesterton essays I once bought a few years ago, and having to read and re-read that sentence to take it in fully. I don't know that I have understood it yet.

Film critic William Bayer once described Bergman films as "hovering very close to some momentous revelation." The same is true of Chesterton for me. I'm never sure if his words are meaningless, nonsensical fun -or if they hold the key to riddle of life. Both maybe?

jon said...

awesome, couldn't agree more. i forget sometimes, and then i pick up a frivolous essay by him about something like flowers or typewriters and i remember.

and ingmar bergman has been amazing for me too, although i sort of stalled out at wild strawberries, with him. i need to get back to watching his stuff.

winter light and glass darkly and seventh seal (is that what it was called) were phenomenal films.