Monday, February 8, 2010

what I'm reading: a cure for madness from Chesterton's Orthodoxy

GK Chesterton is talking about maniacs. He's talking about how their minds move with perfect logic in the small circle of a single idea. "Everyone is plotting against me." "I am the King of England." "I am Christ."

What he says reminds me uncomfortably of myself at my most gloomy and anxious: how my thoughts begin to spin round and round until they form a tight knot. How I can't see past the obsessions of my own mind. How the world shrinks to the tiny space of my self-reflection.

Wonderfully, Chesterton also offers a cure. Here's what he says:

The madman's ... mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle ... If you or I were dealing with a mind that was growing morbid, we should be chiefly concerned not so much to give it arguments as to give it air, to convince it that there was something cleaner and cooler outside the suffocation of a single argument. ...

"How much happier you would be if you only knew that these people cared nothing about you! How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they were not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers." ...

"So you are the Creator and Redeemer of the world: but what a small world it must be! What a little heaven you must inhabit, with angels no bigger than butterflies! How sad it must be to be God; and an inadequate God! Is there really no life fuller and no love more marvellous than yours; and is it really in your small and painful pity that all flesh must put its faith? How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down!"

Chesterton Orthodoxy 18-19

image is from h.koppdelaney at flickr

1 comment:

Valori said...

This is excellent, Jean. It is so true that obsessively looking inward is not how we are meant to live. In times when my mind and emotions really want to keep me self-consumed, I try to remind myself to look upward and outward -- to the cross of Christ and to serving others. It is best at times not to give the self-focused arguments the time of day!