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Logos [3-26-10]

Thoroughly worldly people never understand even the world; they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true.  Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the modern world.  Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it.  The publisher said of somebody, “That man will get on; he believes in himself.”  And I remember that as I lifted my head to listen, my eye caught an omnibus on which was written “Hanwell.” [an asylum]  I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves?  For I can tell you.  I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar.  I know where flames the fixed of certainty and success.  I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen.  The men who really believe in themselves are all in  lunatic asylums.”  He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums.  “Yes, there are,” I retorted, “and you of all men ought to know them  That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself.  That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself.  If you consulted your business experienced instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.  Actors who can’t act believe in themselves; and debtors who won’t pay.  It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail, because he believes in himself.  Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness. Believing utterly in one’s self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcote [an English “religious visionary”]: the man who has it has ‘Hanwell’ written on his face as plan as it is written on that omnibus.”  And to all this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, “Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?”  After a long pause I replied, “I will go home and write a book in answer to that question.”  This is the book that I have written in answer to it.

[From Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton]

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  1. Galdemore
    March 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    News Flash: Theatrical writing doesn’t make you correct or wise. I hate this pretentious garbage.

    Why don’t all of you Christians ride your high horses far far away from here where people care about what you say and believe in. You can make a Zealotus state in Alaska or some where far away from people.

    • March 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      Well Galdemore, thank you for coming out of your way to our website to criticize us for expressing our views. I am sorry that you find this–or anything on this website, for that matter, to be “theatrical writing.”

      Personally, if I were to write theatrically, it would be a bit more like this:

      “Egads! We are beleaguered by the provincial insularities of the pseudo-intelligentsia! They have thwarted our circumlocutory rhetoric of high sentence; quick, to the horses of great stature, so that we might beat a hasty retreat where we can congratulate ourselves on the insight of our vain and calcified ideals!”

      Big words and careful syntactical structuring serve a purpose; not just to sound impressive, but to convey a particular idea with the right emphasis. In other words, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it; but don’t dismiss it because you’re prejudiced and small-minded.

  2. David
    March 31, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Aristides :
    “Egads! We are beleaguered by the provincial insularities of the pseudo-intelligentsia! They have thwarted our circumlocutory rhetoric of high sentence; quick, to the horses of great stature, so that we might beat a hasty retreat where we can congratulate ourselves on the insight of our vain and calcified ideals!”

    Ok, that’s pretty funny.

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