I have to admit something to you, in the interest of full disclosure, because someone linked here calling me “the brilliant Sarah of Snoring Scholar.” I read most of this chapter and felt like my brain would explode. I didn’t highlight–couldn’t highlight–because I’m not sure I understood it all. (This would be the reason for re-reading, right? And I will. Someday.)
[T]he things common to all men are more important than the things peculiar to any men. Ordinary things are more valuable than extraordinary things; nay, they are more extraordinary. … The sense of the miracle of humanity itself should be always more vivid to us than any marvels of power, intellect, art, or civilization.
As we hover on the cusp of spring here in Ohio, I can’t help but read this and think of how the world is already changing around me. Isn’t it amazing? I see how the morning light changes, how the days lengthen and the sunsets explode through the clouds on the horizon, while signs of life–leaf buds, stems in the grass, baby animals–start appearing.
These are common things, things that happen every single year. And yet I find myself enamored with them, though they are familiar and predictable.
I think that’s what Chesterton’s speaking of: we focus on the extraordinary, but often at the expense of those things right in front of us that are, though ordinary, also extraordinary. I rave about my new gadget, though it’s even more worth noticing and raving about the child who’s galloping through the house.
Chesterton continues by tackling politics and economics. I’m guessing, from other things I’ve read, notably the November/December 2010 issue of Gilbert Magazine, that much of what he writes here makes the case for Distibutism.
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
When I read this, I can’t help but think of how much Catholic Tradition–both big-T Tradition and small-t tradition–have resonated with me. Whether it’s the Mass or the tradition of various venerations, there are so many ways that my faith has been deepened and broadened by those who went before me.
Chesterton goes on to explain why fairy stories are actually much closer to how life is and should be than they aren’t. This would be the part of the chapter where I nodded and nodded and realized I would have to do some re-reading. I really liked his philosophy and it rang true. It felt like I was reading something I had known but hadn’t had words for.
Near the end of the chapter, though, Chesterton stated this:
When one is fond of anything one addresses it by diminutives, even if it is an elephant or a life-guardsman. The reason is, that anything, however huge, that can be conceived of as complete, can be conceived of as small.
This made me think of my little mental habit of Nicknaming. You know, calling a kid “Noonie” or “Buttah” or “Junie.” Some of the nicknames stick. Some of them change with the people or circumstances. And some of them are completely inappropriate to share.
A sister-in-law once told me, when I shyly shared our nickname for her, that you only nickname people you love. That’s not entirely true. But with most of my nicknames, it is. In the interest of charity and not fanning the flames of a tendency toward not-nice-ness, I do mostly only nickname those I love.
And those nicknames are often diminutives. I read that passage and thought of how cute my baby boy is and how we call him all sorts of silly things. I thought, too, of how our voices change to a higher octave and he smiles in response.
A baby is a complete human, though packaged far cuter than most of the rest of us. Is it any wonder that we tend to make the things we like smaller, as Chesterton says?
What struck you with this chapter? Share your comments and insight, please!