“Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man…You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time…Let us rejoice in this grace…For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us to make his only Son become the Son of Man, so that a son of man might in his turn becom God? As if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.”
Advent is rough. It is taking place when the nights are getting longer, when the weather gets awful, and when New England enters its most awful phase in terms of weather. Yet, it’s my favorite time of the year, speaking liturgically. I never thought much of Christmas growing up, in fact I hated it for a time. Now, it is a time that I look forward to, and that is no small part due to the symbolism of Advent and my growing reliance on the Doctrine of the Incarnation.
From Shadow to Light
It makes sense to have a period in the winter where we think about our coming from darkness into light. As I mentioned, these long nights can really get to a man. How great it is, during the darkest time of the year, that we have a celebration that celebrates with merriment and a light that shineth in darkness.
For a good overview, Dom Prosper Guéranger has a pretty good overview on the history of Advent in the Roman Rite. In The Liturgical Year, Dom Prosper notes that Advent as a time for preparation can be found going back early in the Church and was often treated as a “little Lent.” Fourth Century France had already established a time of fasting and almsgiving, all to prepare our hearts to receive Christ as a child at Christmas. The West has relaxed many of its customs since at least the fourteenth century, but we still use this time as period of penance and also to recall the world before the Incarnation. Dom Prosper notes:
“The holy Church, therefore during Advent, awaits in tears and with ardour the arrival of her Jesus in His first coming…These longings for the Messias expressed by the Church are not a mere commemoration of the desires of the ancient Jewish people…From all eternity, the prayers of the ancient Jewish people and the prayers of the Christian Church ascend together to the prescient hearing of God; and it was after receving and granting them, that He sent, in the appointed time, that blessed Dew upon the earth, which made it bud forth the Saviour.”
(The Liturgical Year: Advent, p. 29)
So, yes, Advent is a period of awaiting, and we wait like those before Christ were waiting and it’s also symbolic of or waiting for the return of Christ in Glory. Or, as Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, OMV put it in his first Sermon of Advent:
The waiting of Advent is more than just waiting for Christ’s return in glory. We wait for Christ’s glorious return by making use of the graces of the redemption, graces that He gained for us in His first coming in flesh to this world, to renew and to fulfill the promises that we made to Him on the day of our Baptism. Advent is a time of thinking and reflection on how faithful God has been to us, faithfully renewing and fulfilling His promises to us in good or in bad times
So, in this time when the nights get overly long and lead me to some strange contemplation, I found that it’s a good time to consider all of life and what it means.
The Incarnation Gives Us Meaning
This all is hard for me to put into words. I’m not saying that the Incarnation is the perfect meditation to ward off all dark thoughts. I can’t make that claim. But, with my own mind, which is often shouting with the dark thoughts, the Incarnation is that point of belief in me that has kept me going.
I mentioned in a previous post that I once had one of my most intense let’s not talks on Christmas Eve. Those talks will be familiar to many of you who have had to deal with mental anguish as they are those moments when you can only say, “Let’s not end my life today, even though living is painful.” That night is a painful one to recall, as you can imagine. What kept me going? Well, for whatever weird reason, it’s been the idea that God became man so, as Augustine and Athanasius said, so that we might become God—that is, that we share in an eternal unity with God that is accomplished by this even we call the Incarnation.
I posted that quotation from Augustine at the beginning because it illustrates a point that has saved my life: there is no bloody reason for why God would create us, come down to us, and for Him to take on our flesh. Or, as Terry Eagleton summed it up, God did this for “the hell of it.” If we ask what merited this great gift, if we ask what we did to merit it, we’d find no answer except for grace.
The Incarnation is weird, scandalous even. We say that God did not come to appear as a ruler; He did not come into the body of an Adonis and fight a great war. God came down as an infant and was birthed in a cave by a Virgin with a fugitive carpenter for a foster father. How often do we look at a Nativity Set this time of year and reflect on just how strange it is.
My dear reader, I don’t expect much of this to make sense. I’ve studied it for years, and it still strikes me dumb. However, this central even is the great joy of Christianity. Jesus took on our nature in order to redeem it and I know of no greater thought that has given me comfort these last eleven years, even as my depression would abandon all other hope. I still take my medication and see a counselor, but when I say that the love of Christ has saved my life, that is not a mere hyperbole. When I had those let’s not talks, it was knowing that Christ took on our nature and our pains, and that it was for no other reason than for love, that kept me alive that night and the following morning.
Again, I know this is not a universal comfort. I would never say to an atheist that this is the reason to convert, but I would gladly say that it’s why I remain a son of the Church. As we continue in this season of Advent, I pray you all will take the time to reflect on the weirdness of the Incarnation. Let it scandalize you, even. But, please, whatever you do, do not treat it as just another doctrine you memorized or just another belief. This is the time to come out of our darkness and that may mean even the darkness of our own minds, as it is often for me. However, at the end of all dark paths is this promise of Christ. He is among us, He has been born, and He shall never depart.
I now leave you with my favorite reading for Christmas, from G.K Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man:
A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded…
There is in that alone the touch of a revolution, as of the world turned upside down. It would be vain to attempt to say anything adequate, or anything new, about the change which this conception of a deity born like an outcast or even an outlaw had upon the whole conception of law and its duties to the poor and outcast. It is profoundly true to say that after that moment there could be no slaves. There could be and were people bearing that legal title, until the Church was strong enough to weed them out, but there could be no more of the pagan repose in the mere advantage to the state of keeping it a servile state. Individuals became important, in a sense in which no instruments can be important. A man could not be a means to an end, at any rate to any other man’s end. All this popular and fraternal element in the story has been rightly attached by tradition to the episode of the Shepherds; the hinds who found themselves talking face to face with the princes of heaven. But there is another aspect of the popular element as represented by the shepherds which has not perhaps been so fully developed; and which is more directly relevant here.
Men of the people, like the shepherds, men of the popular tradition, had everywhere been the makers of the mythologies. It was they who had felt most directly, with least check or chill from philosophy or the corrupt cults of civilization, the need we have already considered; the images that were adventures of the imagination; the mythology that was a sort of search the tempting and tantalizing hints of something half human in nature; the dumb significance of seasons and special places. They had best understood that the soul of a landscape is a story and the soul of a story is a personality. But rationalism had already begun to rot away these really irrational though imaginative treasures of the peasant; even as systematic slavery had eaten the peasant out of house and home. Upon all such peasantries everywhere there was descending a dusk and twilight of disappointment, in the hour when these few men discovered what they sought. Everywhere else Arcadia was fading from the forest. Pan was dead and the shepherds were scattered like sheep. And though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfill all things; and though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd.
image: Sarowen via Flickr
The Woman Who Was Chesterton, Nancy C. Brown’s new and definitive biography about the great woman behind GK Chesterton is coming out this month. Yet, she gave a fine preview of Frances Blogg Chesterton at Catholic Exchange today.
This might be one of the better love stories I’ve ever encountered. It’s simple and profound, and I especially like this line of GK Chesterton about his future wife:
“She is good, she is nice, she is polite, she is intelligent. She is sane. These things are scarcely novel, they are among the common objects of a morning walk. If you care to know ordinary conversation, we talked about laughter, and I said how sacred it was, and she said her monosyllable. By the way, not that it matters much, and although she does say “Yes,” she is really an acute, if not clever girl, I find. I really didn’t know it until I began to throw out a few Christian reflections. She hasn’t been broadened enough by reading, but when it comes to interior meanings, she’s all there.”
Any of you follow me on facebook or twitter are probably aware that I was at the 34th annual GK Chesterton Conference in San Antonio, TX this past weekend. I was mostly there to work, to promote books and the Catholic Exchange brand but I still got to go out and enjoy the many friends, old and new, who descended upon the historic hotel for some wine, songs, and quotations of Chesterton. In many ways, it was like being at summer camp but for adults. I miss everyone already.
Among the great joys were getting to sit down with the brilliant author of the upcoming The Woman Who Was Chesterton, Ms. Nancy C. Brown, for a bit of a podcast interview. So take a listen by clicking here, or that big ol’ GKC image to right. That’s a good fellow.
I’ve heard of Nancy’s work and it was a joy to be able to speak with her to learn more about what drives her. I also got to meet fellow writers and editors, so it was an odd lot of rowdy men and women who proclaim the love of Christ while giving you a hug or a clever insult. That part is done and I look forward to next year. Also, my dear reader, I look forward to meeting you there if you’d be so kind as to join us.
I was pleased to be a guest on the Fountain of Carrots podcast to talk about G.K. Chesterton. We covered a ton of topics, ranging from poetry, to novels, and to GKC’s economic thoughts. I kept my nervous giggle in check, I think. Enjoy the listening.
My latest piece is over at Catholic World Report, focusing on the poetry of GK Chesterton. It is surprising how good of a poet the man was, given that he’s mostly known for his quotable phrases. However, as I hope I demonstrate, his poetry really is worth learning.
With the renewed interest in Chesterton and his work, we should not neglect the contribution he made to English verse, which is at times child-like as it explores the deep mysteries of faith and existence with the very heart of a child he was so praised for possessing. While his poetry might have seemed archaic compared to the great modernist poets of the twentieth century, his desire to express beauty and truth within a traditional rhyming and sometimes iambic form left a legacy of good and unforgettable poems that are worthy of study and memorization.
So many have been shocked by the news of Robin Williams and what appears to be his self-inflicted death. For years, he was to me a poster-child for depression. Laughter became his shield, as it has for many who suffer from mental anguish, but he still had an inner haunting that does not release its grip too easily. I know in my own struggles with depression, comedy was exactly what I used before discovering the toxic cocktail of food, porn, and booze (really, just don’t do it). A little secret of mine is that my first real writing gig was a weekly satirical column in the Eugene Comic News and I got to meet a lot of comedic writers through that. All of them struggled with some form of mental anguish.
So it is that many wonder how man who so funny, so full of life, and with so much adoration, could be so depressed. When I hear people asking that, I swing between having no answer to wanting to hit my head against a book case. It was asked again when Mother Teresa was “outed” as having dealt with some heavy dark nights of the soul. No one could figure out how a holy woman could feel God’s presence, act in great charity, and yet feel the pains of depression.
There there’s my personal life. One of the most jovial friends I ever had killed himself after his wife left him several years ago and just a week ago another close friend attempted to take his own life. I’ve recently been public about my own struggles with MDD and how many times I stared down that abyss where death seemed like it would be the only relief. At one point, medication and a lot of counselling is the only thing that made me turn away from it, along with some deep religious experiences that I can only call miraculous. Yet, you’d never guess from meeting me in person.
The Depressed Look Nothing Like That
Sure, I went through a phase of listening to a lot of punk and metal, but I generally don’t wear all black. The average depressed person is not wearing black eye-liner and writing emo lyrics for a crappy band. They are, in my experience, folks who can be quite charming and even seem to be always happy. This would, to some minds, seem to point to an overall good mood. In private, though, it’s a living hell.
My particular form of mental illness is defined by an over-all low mood. Most days I can function normally, but there are those days when getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing in the world to do. The worst days I’ve had to check myself into a hospital because all I could think about was ways I’d like to die. That part is hard to explain to people who have never been there. It’s not so much a desire to no longer exist, but a wish that whatever this is that is clouding my judgement would just be gone.
The worst of it, though, is the loneliness. The feeling that even God has abandoned you to your sufferings and that relief is not coming.
I’m much better now than I was even five years ago, but trust me that those feelings rarely go away. Even though I have a job I love, good friends, and a loving family, I am always having to worry about the day that the bark of the black dog will be too loud to endure.
That’s the point of depression and all other forms of mental illness: it clouds the mind and impairs judgement, you are literally unable to think straight and sometimes reality looks like a hazy dream. My mother once described it as seeing the world through a thick blanket. You can’t reason with it, you can’t negotiate with it, and even if you understand that your thought process is not normal or healthy, it’s easier to make out with a grizzly bear than to try to keep your mind from repeating that inner dialogue.
I don’t expect this to make sense, because it barely makes sense to me and I have to live with it every day. Throw in the fact that I, like many depressed people, keep a persona bon vivant, it becomes alienating when my mood reaches a low where I can’t even stand my own company. We want so badly to have some companionship, but we’re so afraid of our own minds that we’d shiver at exposing other people to our inner darkness.
That, above all else, is why I write. I don’t like writing on this subject. It takes just about every once of energy I have to write about depression without dropping the F-bomb every other clause. But, if one person can understand that they’re not alone than I can hope that my mild discomfort can help them.
The world though, especially most Catholic media, is lousy at offering the help we need. In the months since I started writing openly about depression and faith I’ve received the kind of cheap email messages that drive people crazy; things like, “have you tried avoiding gluten or taking Omega-6 oils,” (because, holy crikey, I just needed Dr. Oz, M.Div all along) or “maybe you should pray more” (because depressed people don’t pray, ever). Depression is hard to understand, I get that, but we could be better at explaining it and helping the many who endure it find some form of healing or at least enough grace to go on. Depression does not sell conferences or books, but we need to see how many people it touches and do what we can. Lives are on the line.
Arise from the Darkness!
I wanted to point out that depression touches many lives, whether we know it or not. Even my worst days I can fake being happy for a few hours before I collapse in exhaustion. If someone is depressed, you may never know it unless they feel comfortable enough to let their guard down. Then, it’s up to you to do what you can to be a friend, mother, spouse, or whatever part you play in their lives.
Unlike many illnesses, it does not always show outwardly. The person in your life suffering mental anguish is probably barely aware of it himself. Dig, though, and it’s there. Like all conditions of the Fall, we cannot let it fester in darkness but there needs to a light to shine the truth and to give hope to those who feel like all hope has abandoned them.
Depression doesn’t give a damn about your status, vocation, race, or financial situation. Yet, neither does Christ. If we want the mentally afflicted to find the peace that surpasses all understanding, we need first to open the doors and to let it in, and that is what Christian charity ought to do.
If someone in your life is suffering such mental anguish, I can tell you from experience what works and doesn’t work. Don’t try to cure them unless you are a doctor or a real wonder-worker, and for heaven’s sake do not try to tell them, “But how can you be depressed!” Instead, let them know that they do have a friend, who is willing to carry a lot of their pains if necessary, and be okay if silence is their only response. Then, pray for help and that grace will be sufficient to get them through, but be aware that you probably are called to be an instrument of that grace. It means some work, but love demands it.
As well, if you are reading this and have been exhausted by your own black dog, know that it is not all there is. I’ve found some peace, but it doesn’t mean my burden is gone. Seek help, go for a walk, do whatever you can to come back tomorrow with the determination that you shall live. Also, know that God did not take on our nature and defeat death just to leave you alone. Seems cheap, I know, but sometimes that is the only assurance I have and it is no small thing.
To end, here’s a little poem by one man that few knew struggled with depression, Mr. GK Chesterton:
THIS much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave,
Pity me not; but let the world be fed,
Yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
Heed you the grass that grows upon my grave.
If I dare snarl between this sun and sod,
Whimper and clamour, give me grace to own,
In sun and rain and fruit in season shown,
The shining silence of the scorn of God.
Thank God the stars are set beyond my power,
If I must travail in a night of wrath,
Thank God my tears will never vex a moth,
Nor any curse of mine cut down a flower.
Men say the sun was darkened: yet I had
Thought it beat brightly, even on—Calvary:
And He that hung upon the Torturing Tree
Heard all the crickets singing, and was glad.
I received the news yesterday that Stratford Caldecott, the preeminent English Catholic author whom I’ve written about before, has fallen asleep in the Lord last night at the all-too-early age of 60.
After such a heroic fight, and with the love of his amazing family, he still has words that will shine bright in this world. We were never thankful enough for him. If you are unfamiliar, I actually think this essay, written a mere couple of months before his death, is one of the most powerful works by the Good Man. In it, Mr. Caldecott reflects,
God entered deeply into the world—so deeply that we can call it a merging, a uniting of his own nature with the world itself. It is no illusion, but a real uniting. We can participate by joining in the rhythm of life and death. God hides himself deeply within the world, not as an extension of life, such as an experience or two, but as the totality of being. At first it all seems inaccessible and impossible. The Cross seems impossible, incredible. It seems foolish, crazy. But we must join fully, deeply, truly. And we must start as soon as possible.
I will be writing more about Stratford, his work, and his amazing life in the next couple of days, but for now I would like to invite all of you who are inclined to please join me in praying for him.
Christ our eternal King and God, You have destroyed death and the devil by Your Cross and have restored man to life by Your Resurrection; give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your servant, Stratford Caldecott, who has fallen asleep, in Your Kingdom, where there is no pain, sorrow or suffering. In Your goodness and love for all men, pardon all the sins he has committed in thought word or deed, for there is no man or woman who lives and sins not, You only are without sin.
For You are the Resurrection, the Life, and Repose of Your servant Stratford, departed this life, O Christ our God; and to You do we send up glory with Your Eternal Father and Your All-holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit; both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Thanks to Rod Dreher, there have been several discussions about finding and making a community lately; a theme that resonates a lot when the city I’ve come to love and reluctantly called home is attacked. I don’t know that I ever wanted to admit my love of this hard region, with the constant winters, the people and their famously laconic social skills, and the lack of real mountains. However, reading Dreher’s work and reflecting on how much New England has adopted me has certainly been a time of reflection and thus it’s overdue for some praise to my community.
Boston has a strange draw for us Lichens boys. I can recall being eight-years-old and being moved to tears that my oldest brother decided to leave Oregon for Boston. “Boston,” I thought, “Where is that and why would he want to leave?” Bob had just moved back in with the family and now needed a change; he needed to get as far away from Oregon’s spirit and geography as he could, and New England is as much a foreign nation to a kid from Cascadia as much as any other place. It seemed so weird to me, but I ended up following in his footsteps a good fourteen years later and would return to this region after my departure from grad school. Like Bob, I too needed to get out of Oregon but I never imagine that I’d feel the same affection that he did for this place.
My first impression of Boston was that it is an old city, carved by Puritans in a hostile place and refined by the toughest people I’ve ever encountered. New Englanders can come off as rude, with a huge chip on their shoulder. It can be mistaken as rudeness, but it is only their odd way of loving. They protect their hamlets, towns, neighborhoods, and cities much like the hero of The Napoleon of Notting Hill. A boy growing up in East Boston or Bow, NH is likely to see their simple land as citadel worth protecting and loving. In fact, these last few days of carnage have reminded me that New England can teach the whole nations one simple truth: that a place is loved not because it is great but that its greatness is but a reflection of the love the people have poured out on it.
I may have been initially put off by the people, but I truly do love this region. Her old forests, colonial towns, and ages of folklore produce stories of ghosts, romance, and adventure and very often these same stories happen in the same few square miles. If you go to one town of a few hundred people you can plop down in a pub and feel the many ages of hopes and dreams that were poured out for generations even if not a single person will engage you in small talk. This is, after all, the soil which was tilled by the Sons of Liberty that helped plant the seeds for our many great poets and novelists.
“There are two ways of getting home,” Chesterton wrote, “and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.” Chesterton was talking about seeing the familiar things made new, as if you found a new joy and adventure by gazing at the same hill you’ve walked one thousand times before. As I look at the videos of the Marathon Bombings I see the unspeakable horror of what a coward will do to maim and harm other but I also see the much overlooked simple kindness of people running back to offer aid and help to their fallen friends. Even in a place renowned for its less-than-friendly demeanor there is still enough good in people that they will help when all common sense would say to run.
Boston and all of New England have so much beauty but it takes a second look before one can see it again. Here is my hope that I don’t forget the joys that this adopted land of mine teaches me.
On 14 June 1936 the world lost one of the most colourful and controversial writers of the modern era, and it is this man that I raise a glass to and say many thanks to Mr. G.K. Chesterton. It has never been a secret that I have great appreciation for the Beneficent Bomb, and I would go so far as to say that I owe him so much that I often wish he were alive so that I could in some way pay his debt. It is not just for his use of paradox, his exciting mysteries and thrillers, but it is the combination of his witty prose and larger-than-life attitude that I have been thankful for, but a combination of these things that have made him admired by authors such as Aidan Nichols, Slavoj Zizek (who actually quotes GKC more than any other non-Christian critic I know), Graham Greene, and C.S. Lewis. For all these things he is admired, but for me it is because he did what so few authors outside of the realm of mysticism were capable of doing: showing that innocence and joy were within reach without succumbing to ignorance.
Innocent, But Not Ignorant
Chesterton and many of his followers are often derided for a “Chestertonian Gusto” that can frankly be annoying to the more cynically-inclined like myself. Kafka is said to have remarked that Chesterton was so happy that one would think that he had found God, which is perhaps closest to the truth of the matter. There has been much written on the happiness exhibited by Chesterton and the almost controversial nature of his joy, but there is one thing that many writers seem to miss when analysing and scrutinizing how a man can be so happy at a time when so much seemed to be going wrong. The assumption that I have long suffered from and one that permeates almost all of society is that if one is innocent or has a feeling of joy then they are not paying attention. I believed this myself, and often still do during my ‘black dog days,’ but it is from this illusion that I will forever be thankful to Chesterton. In a way, he literally saved my life.
I can still remember on one bus ride from work in Boulder and reading my copy of Orthodoxy when a seed from Chesterton’s work was planted with the simple sentence, “I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.” This was one of three times in my life where depression had actually made me into a monster most would never recognise; I had ceased believing in any form of spirituality and had come to suspect each and every person I encountered with a paranoia that I still find unbelievable. I had planned on suicide and had even composed a rather angry letter towards everyone I blamed. It is true that depression makes one act almost like the worst caricature of adolescence, and believe me it is embarrassing to think I am even capable of such behaviour. What Chesterton had planted was an idea that there was a goodness beyond the failures and inconsistencies of life, and in fact that there was great joy to be found in the very things we take for granted.
The world of Chesterton was always a search for a man with a golden key, a figure from his childhood toy theatre that opened a world of possibilities behind the most simple of doors to find something as exciting as a dragon or a piece of chalk. While it is easy to call him a childish optimist it cannot be understated that even Chesterton knew that blind belief in the perfection of the world always led to disappointment. Writing of these peculiar optimist, Chesterton states:
“If optimism means a general approval, it is certainly true that the more a man becomes an optimist the more he becomes a melancholy man. If he manages to praise everything, his praise will develop an alarming resemblance to a polite boredom. He will say that the marsh is as good as the garden; he will mean that the garden is as dull as the marsh.”
His view from the first sentence and through the many adventures confirmed in my mind for the first time that you might say that there are defects–what theologians call the stain of sin–throughout the whole of creation, but there is still an affirming goodness that we often forget about. The Chestertonian view found a goodness in the world that was rooted in the Christian belief that God created out of love, a love so great that God through Christ chose to become one with its creature. For someone who grew up in an Evangelical and liberal setting that imagined all suffering was just perception and could be defeated with prayer and positive thinking, Chesterton was an iconoclast who came to destroy the weak images and open the windows to a new world.
Chesterton believed that all people had the dignity of God in their character as it was imprinted in the order of creation; but this glory was expressed in the rest of the world that he often called a playground or a fairytale. Indeed, he probably looked to many as a mythological figure who had wandered into the real world and needed to be shaken back. However, this joy at life was not at all in ignorance. Chesterton was among the first to warn about Eugenics and the consequences that scientism could reap. Though he certainly spoke an anti-Jewish statement, he was also aware of Hitler and the dangerous ideology he represented while much of Europe remained ignorant, and even in his time he was debating issues that we now know are monstrous but in his own time were fashionable. This was a man who was in love with God and all of His creation, but that love did not mean he had to be delusional about it. When he affirmed the goodness of chalk, trees, his faith and his wife he also knew that this love would drive him to fight ardently while never forgetting why he started fighting. “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
All of this, as I mentioned, was quite revolutionary for a young man who was in a rather great fit of despair. While I have read philosophers and theologians since that bus ride who have helped me in changing how I see the world, Chesterton still holds a great place with me for showing that such a vision was possible. I still have the black dog days and will always struggle with my own cross, but on that day I was able to walk back from the bus stop and look at the mountains with the single thought, “Perhaps it is good, but just has something missing.” Not profound, and certainly not a new idea, but it was something that probably has saved my life. For this alone, I agree with George Bernard Shaw when I say that the world is not thankful enough for G.K. Chesterton.
Yes, most of you have heard, Obama has confirmed again that he is a citizen of the United States and legitimately holds office. All has been show at a press conference so that maybe, just maybe, we can talk about the real problems of this presidency. As much as I’d love to see reason win out, I have experience with conspiracy theorist to know that the lack of evidence is all the evidence they need.
At every family meal around the holidays I can be guaranteed that one elder will be a birther, one of the younger and more liberal members will be a Truther, and the grandest of the Irish will still believe that Freemasons invented the Novus Ordo and encrypted the secrets of Kennedy in its hand puppet theatres. I have argued with all members until I was blue in the face, and then had to bear their scrutiny when I realized I was wrong about Bill Clinton’s body count. They’re family, I love ’em and they love all my wackiness.
With my experience, I know that nothing the president can do will ever satisfy the people who think he’s a foreign born Muslim who is acting as a sleeper agent. Barak Obama could hold his birth certificate, at a pig roast, drinking a beer, and being blessed by the bishop and there would still be people looking for the hidden symbols of the Koran in the pig’s dripping fat. It remains true what Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, “The madman’s explanation of a things is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory.” I can tell someone that all evidence points to the president being a natural born citizen and the response will be, “That’s because the evidence was placed there in 1961.” I’ll then point out that it is unlikely for someone in 1961 to know that he would become president and thus have motive and then the response is, “Yes, that’s what they want you to believe. Are you defending a man you yourself have criticized.”
The alternative is that someone knows that this is all crazy and unlikely and then they’ll say, “Well, I’m not saying that he isn’t legitimate, but this raises questions…” and this is then followed by their raising bad arguments to the level of legitimate evidence and trying to lead people. The justification is that this will allow them to plant seeds of doubt without actually laying claim to the crazy conclusions that they are leading everyone else to believe. This isn’t madness or confusion, but is in fact lying or perhaps something worse. Some well-meaning people know that Obama and the political machine presents many dangers to America and so they employ consequentialism, using bad ends to bring out the good. To lie and deceive about the president in hopes of turning things around is to claim a power that belongs only to the divine: bringing good out of evil. However, even angels will not commit evil to bring out the good and the destroying of a man’s good name based on a lie is exactly the evil that should repulse the angels of our better nature.