February 9, 2013

Chewing on Chesterton

I dived into G.K. Chesterton earlier this week, never mind that there are dozens of books on my priority shelf waiting, barely waded in to…No, instead I tried something new, an online audio book.  And while I listened I looked at an online print version, and cutandpasted thought-provoking morsels to chew on later.  Chesterton churns out a lot of these. He was a man characterized by indomitable joy from what I’ve read, along with a brilliant mind and a charming wit.

So I decided to try The Man Who Was Thursday: a Nightmare.* Peculiar title, I know, but fitting; the chief characters each had code names after the days of the week.  The genre of ‘metaphysical thriller’ did little to pique my interest.  What does ‘metaphysical’ mean anyway?  (I now have turned to Wikipedia and sort of get it)  And I’m really not into thrillers, but I do admire Chesterton’s genius and optimistic outlook, and the book was recommended by a friend, so… I tried it.

I think I might not have persevered without the excellent rendering, complete with wonderful accents, at LibriVox. [Don’t miss this terrific free resource if you enjoy an audio book!] It was definitely not a story to fall asleep to, or even doodle idly to.  Once I’d realized this and took it seriously enough to start at the beginning a second time, (with notebook at hand) the chapters started flying—suspenseful and strange, surreal and outrageous, full of intriguing symbolism.

On the surface were issues of anarchy vs. law and order--a plotline based on a police detective infiltrating a top-secret Anarchist society. But this is an allegorical and impossibly bizarre tale of a world that is not what it seems. (And do we not live in just such a world?) The detective’s profound and unexpected discoveries culminate in a profoundly soul-satisfying finish, revealing…

Well, I don’t want to give the whole story away.  Suffice it to say the story, in retrospect, is all wound around with God superintending the affairs of man, God who appoints all things (and people) to accomplish His purposes, and ultimately wishes to be known.  And scattered all along the way to keep me from getting too serious in sleuthing out the story’s hidden meaning were gems of dry wit that tickled my elusive funny bone!

Even if an allegorical ‘thriller’ is not your idea of a good read, this one is worth the effort just for its triumphant, faith-affirming, every-thing-is-gonna-be-alright conclusion. Only after you’ve been along for the harrowing journey of Thursday can you appreciate these closing lines:

“He felt he was in possession of some impossible good  news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an adorable triviality.”

Are we too not in possession of such Good News? Pessimism be vanquished! God is in control.  His redemptive purposes will be accomplished in and through and despite the evil and heartache which surrounds us.  Though we be called to suffer, though we may long to understand what’s going on when things just don’t  make sense…God knows and ordains all things for our good, for He is not only supremely powerful, He is supremely good, no matter what the enemy of our souls may say! 

And that has been the storyline undergirding my thoughts this week—as I wrestle for answers to perplexing problems, as I live day to day on the manna He does supply, and as I revel with thankful heart in His plentiful blessings… In all these things God is superintending and sufficient.  In all these things, whether obvious or hidden, God is good.

Two passages come to mind that affirm Chesterton’s storyline and with these I’ll stop, not having intended a book review today but glad for the chance to re-affirm God’s steady goodness towards the likes of us.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  II Cor.4:17,18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom.8:18

Oh and never mind stopping there, may as well keep going and read the whole of Romans 8, very good news indeed! 

Need that to music?  Consider these perspective restoring lyrics: “…purpose in all our suffering and Joy that will never die."

[from Risen, by Sovereign Grace Music]

You are Our Hope

[Doesn’t work in your browser?  Click here to go directly to YouTube]

Thanks for stopping by today to consider my ponderings ( :


May I leave you with a little taste of Chesteron thought, excerpted from The Man Who Was Thursday:

“Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.”

*Full audio version of The Man Who Was Thursday available here.

Online print version, available here.


A Daughter of the King said...

Download in progress. Thanks for sharing.

MKF said...

Bravo for getting through it and getting something out of it. I had heard Chesterton was good and tried to read "Thursday" several years ago. About 18 months ago, I actually did read it. There is nothing like reading all the words, pondering it over, and realizing you still have no idea what the author was getting at. :)

Linda said...

I hear what you're saying, nothing like reading all the words... and still having no idea what the author's saying! I confess to having just hung in there for the ride and gleaned these bits but really knowing I missed the bulk of the thing. Weird sort of reading. You've got to try the audio and let the enthusiasm of the reading carry you along. Not sure I'd have stuck with it otherwise...

Val said...

I have mostly just read comments/quotes byGK Chesterton, and although some of them are good and thoughtful, I find much of what he says hard to follow as well.....

Ali said...

Hi Dawn,

Thanks for your comment (which I found in my moderated comments section as that is where everything older than two weeks goes). I followed the link over here and love your post - and note you have posted the same quote, so our sympathies lie the same way there. It is a strange book. I feel like I need to read it myself again now that I have worked out what sort of book it is, because when you start reading it cold it is so unexpected, as you say. I too loved what it had to say about suffering (and the part where Sunday turns around and throws little notes - hilarious - and I need to read it again to grasp it further).

'Twas nice to come by.