ForthWrite For Christ

Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ

The Ethics of Elfland: On Remembering Who We Are

chesterton“Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that, for certain dead levels of our life, we forget that we have forgotten. All that we can call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that, for one awful instant, we remember that we forget….Here I am only trying to describe the enormous emotions that cannot be described. And the strongest emotion was that life was as precious as it was puzzling. It was an ecstasy because it was an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity. The goodness of the fairy tale was not affected by the fact that there might be more dragons than princesses*; it was good to be in a fairy tale.” (1)

A lovely modern day example of what Chesterton was discussing in The Ethics of Elfland (about being able to see the power of the Divine (Augustine) in fairy tales as well as to remind us of what he calls our attention to here -” remembering who we are”),  is that of a story in Mary Poppins Comes Back. It is a delightful account written from the infant twins point of view who are able to still speak the language of the Starling bird, the trees, the Sun, and the wind. And the only adult who can hear them and understand their language is, of course, Mary Poppins.  Because she has the power never to forget the wonders of childhood as they give her the magical power of being “practically perfect in every way” as their nanny.  It illustrates exactly what Chesterton wants us to remember in relation to God: we are His children still; in need of wonder and gratitude like that of children who do know what it is like to “exult in monotony”.

Till next time.

God bless you.  M. S. Reed, 2009, Dilseacht, le gra go deo | Share on FriendFeed


*[Author’s Note: something that the poet Rilke acknowledges in his famous line from “Letters to a Young Poet:”Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act,…”]
(1) G. K. Chesterton, The Ethics of Elfland, Orthodoxy, Edited, Craig M. Bibler, 2002 (Annotated Edition)

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