Tuesday, January 22, 2008

chesterton--shocking the modernists--dealing with boredom

In the book "The Well and the Shallows" by G.K. Chesterton, there is a short essay or article called "Shocking the Modernists" which is so very pertinent for to today that one is tempted to put 'post' in front of the word "Modernists" in the title.

The article centers around something he had read in an unnamed daily paper, under a headline "Youth Finds Church a Bore" and "A Girl Tells Clergy".

"Youth finds church a bore--and stays away from it.

This contention, put forward by a girl of eighteen from a platform at Girton College, Cambridge, yesteday, made the elderly delgates to the Modern Churchman's Conference sit up sharply in their seats.

The speaker was the attractive daughter of a Portsmouth naval chaplain.

Her most telling passage was this: 'I don't think public worship has any attraction whatsoever to the young. Religion is suppose to express God through truth and beauty, we are told, but in this age of specialisation people turn to science, art and philosophy to satisfy those needs'."

Well, doesn't that sound familiar. By golly, isn't that much what some are saying today?

Anyway, Chesterton has some words about thos who have taken the girl's statement and ran with it, with all kinds of crying and fainting. Then, he puts here claims to the question.

She says that people turn to science, art and philosophy. Will she swear by the Death of Nelson, or whatever else binds the daughter of a Portsmouth naval chaplain, that no science student ever shirks or plays truant in a science school? It will be vain for her to swear any such thing in the case of the art schoo; for I have been to an art school myself, and I can assure her that there were quite as many art students who found application to art a bore as there could possibly be divinity students who found divinity a bore. As for young philosophers, I have know a good many of them; at an age when nearly all of them were much more fond of philosophising than of learning philosophy.

I think that is a good point--any discipline requires discipline, which seems to say that it will not always in itself hold our interest. A young musician will find boring beyond belief having to play scales on the chosen instrument, a young athlete will be moved to tears by practices that involve almost everything except playing the game itself, a young actor will find the slog through memorizing the lines to be something designed to try the soul.

Is it really necessary that we should toil through all this tiresome repetition about the perfectly obvious difficulty of getting young people to when they actually want to play, before we even begin to discuss the mature problem of the relation of doctrine to the mind? It is perfectly natural that they boy should find the church a bore. But why are we bound to treat what is natural as something actually superior to what is supernatural; as something which is not even merely supernatural, but is in the exact sense super-supernatural?

It is only those who will discipline themselves, who will commit themselves, who will then come to a mastery of their discipline. It is only after the musician has disciplined himself to the discipline of music that he will be able to play music freely. It is only after the runner has disciplined herself through the discipline of training that she will be able to run like the wind.

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