August 10, 2009

Wonder Deficiency

Post at the American Chesterton Society blog:
What is it we should do - or avoid doing - in order to begin to discover (re-discover) our world?

It's easy enough to point out that this disease - let us call it "wonder deficiency" - seems to arise more and more in our modern life. This is odd, because there are actually many more things to wonder at now than there used to be - even the most common and ordinary things have been exalted beyond what even great intellects and philosophers - even ALL great intellects and philosophers - have been able to glimpse.


If you want to wonder, you need to be overwhelmed with what you do not know - while preserving a real clue to its knowability - and so I direct you to Chesterton:
The child is, indeed, in these, and many other matters, the best guide. And in nothing is the child so righteously childlike, in nothing does he exhibit more accurately the sounder order of simplicity, than in the fact that he sees everything with a simple pleasure, even the complex things. The false type of naturalness harps always on the distinction between the natural and the artificial. The higher kind of naturalness ignores that distinction. To the child the tree and the lamp-post are as natural and as artificial as each other; or rather, neither of them are natural but both supernatural. For both are splendid and unexplained. The flower with which God crowns the one, and the flame with which Sam the lamplighter crowns the other, are equally of the gold of fairy-tales. In the middle of the wildest fields the most rustic child is, ten to one, playing at steam-engines. And the only spiritual or philosophical objection to steam-engines is not that men pay for them or work at them, or make them very ugly, or even that men are killed by them; but merely that men do not play at them. The evil is that the childish poetry of clockwork does not remain.
[GKC Heretics CW1:112-3]

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