So I picked up the Pearce biography and randomly turned to the pages on Chesterton's essays "Generally Speaking", which I'd serendipitously found on the shelves of a bookstore in Cincinnati. And in it Pearce suggests reading the essay on Thomas Hardy, which I did. Chesterton opines that Hardy's world view stemmed from industrialization's killing off of the rural ideal and by a pessimism brought about by a too Calvinistic vision that suggested a lack of belief in free will ("the most Christian thing in all of Christian theology."). Hardy blamed every negative event on God, which Chesterton memorably calls a "demonic Monism". He said the author had charity towards others though not towards God.
On the drive to church Sunday I saw a car with a Cleveland Brows flag flying from a window and thought "isn't that ridiculous? The Browns suck." But then I immediately realized that wasn't the lesson of Chesterton. I've always justified my greater interest in the Reds this season as an "appreciation for excellence," much as I'd support the Columbus Symphony more if they were known as an excellent orchestra. But that's not the approach of Chesterton towards life or country. To be a patriot is to be love a thing out of loyalty rather than for any intrinsic merit. Even to love America for her Constitution, her ideals, is to introduce a tainting utility. Patriotism has to have an irrational streak, and as a youth I prided myself on my "realism", "practicality" and "rationality". But those aren't the traits that God necessarily desires.
Chesterton writes "we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them." In that Chesterton succinctly points to the source of our goods, to have gratitude to him, and to thank him by being balanced.
I read Orthodoxy about ten years ago, out of duty to general Catlick opinion, but I didn't get out of it what I am this time:
The assumption of it is that a man criticises this world as if he were house-hunting, as if he were being shown over a new suite of apartments....But no man is in that position. A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.
...it seemed and still seems to me that our attitude towards life can be better expressed in terms of a kind of military loyalty than in terms of criticism and approval. My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.
...This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.