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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chesterton's Philosophy of Gratitude

Chesterton is certainly an apostle of Joy! Among my other Lenten reading is the book Lent and Easter: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton which offers a daily quote from Chesterton, a scripture passage, a prayer, and a suggested action. It's a lovely book and a stimulus for introspection. I particularly liked yesterday's reading taken from Chesterton's autobiography:
I invented a rudimentary and makeshift mystical theory of my own. It was substantially this; that even mere existence, reduced to its most primary limits, was extraordinary enough to be exciting. Anything was magnificent as compared with nothing. Even if the very daylight were a dream, it was a day-dream; it was not a nightmare. The mere fact that one could wave one's arms and legs about...showed that it had not the mere paralysis of a nightmare. Or if it was a nightmare, it was an enjoyable nightmare....[N]o man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy.
If I had to summarize Chesterton's philosophy it would be,
"I am, therefore I think...and see...and smell...and taste...and wonder...and move...and laugh... and praise the God who made me!" Unlike Descartes who did so much harm to the world by his self-centered philosophy of navel gazing making the man the center of all things, Chesterton looks outward from the small "I am" made in the image and likeness of the great I AM who has created all things and called them "very good." What a world of joy and laughter we would live in if more men and women adopted Chesterton's philosophy of life and shared it with others. Families would laugh and play more and be happier. Friends would be more charitable and generous toward each other. We would all recognize how much we have to be thankful for. And our attitude of gratitude would help us to worship our good God with joy and never cease to praise Him in the world around us. Look... and really see today all the beauty of the earth and the goodness of our God. And give a little prayer of thanks for the life of that great apostle of gratitude who invites us to rejoice in all things.

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