Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chesterton in the National Catholic Register

In the newest issue of the National Catholic Register, there were two articles about Chesterton. One was a mini-article about Dale Alquhist's opinions on Chesterton's alleged anti-semitism. The other was a much longer article about how, after a long retreat from Chesterton (who used to be required reading in most places apparently) more and more colleges, including Seton Hall, Steubenville, Christendom, Notre Dame, and Cornell, are reviving Chesterton's writings. The momentum for the revival has been mostly students and Evangelicals, with Catholics recently joining in the revival.

(Official Chesterton at UNL is still quite limited to part of one class in modern English literature, but unofficial followers of Chesterton is a little more encouraging, including recent graduate Dr. Jennifer Overkamp, nationally known composer Kurt Knecht, and professor of composition Dr. Eric Richards.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

St. Paul, Fighting and Friendship

This blogg has gotten quiet, a bit of a surprise for a Chestertonian blogg. Did someone stick his tongue to a lamppost? (hee hee) Well, since today (though Sunday, a name of power and awe) is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, I thought I might drop in here and provoke some comments by dredging up a bit of GKC's story from his days as a student at St. Paul. it's got a lovely fight in it, sort of like the strange warfare we read of "on the way to Damascus". Ever notice how we stick things into even well-known Bible stories? There aren't three kings, Veronica isn't on the way of the cross - and there's no horse mentioned when St. Paul is knocked off his h... - uh - when he encounters the Lord. In the same way, we might find it hard to imagine our loveable GKC as a young pugilist! Please read on, and comment at will...

Boyhood is a most complex and incomprehensible thing. Even when one has been through it, one does not understand what it was. A man can never quite understand a boy, even when he has been the boy. There grows all over what was once the child a sort of prickly protection like hair; a callousness, a carelessness, a curious combination of random and quite objectless energy with a readiness to accept conventions. I have blindly begun a lark which involved carrying on literally like a lunatic; and known all the time that I did not know why I was doing it. When I first met my best friend in the playground, I fought with him wildly for three-quarters of an hour; not scientifically and certainly not vindictively (I had never seen him before and I have been very fond of him ever since) but by a sort of inexhaustible and insatiable impulse, rushing hither and thither about the field and rolling over and over in the mud. And all the time I believe that both our minds were entirely mild and reasonable; and when we desisted from sheer exhaustion, and he happened to quote Dickens or the Bab Ballads, or something I had read, we plunged into a friendly discussion on literature which has gone on, intermittently, from that day to this. There is no explaining these things; if those who have done them cannot explain them. But since then I have seen boys in many countries and even of many colours; Egyptian boys in the bazaars of Cairo or mulatto boys in the slums of New York. And I have found that by some primordial law they all tend to three things; to going about in threes; to having no apparent object in going about at all; and, almost invariably speaking, to suddenly attacking each other and equally suddenly desisting from the attack.

Some may still question my calling this conduct conventional; from a general impression that two bankers or business partners do not commonly roll each other head-over-heels for fun, or in a spirit of pure friendship. It might be retorted that two business partners are not always by any means such pure friends. But in any case, it is true to call the thing a convention in more than the verbal sense of a collision. And it is exactly this convention that really separates the schoolboy from the child. When I went to St. Paul's School, in Hammersmith, there really was a sort of convention of independence; which was in a certain degree a false independence; because it was a false maturity. Here we must remember once more the fallacy about "pretending" in childhood. The child does not really pretend to be a Red Indian; any more than Shelley pretended to be a cloud or Tennyson to be a brook. The point can be tested by offering a political pamphlet to the cloud, a peerage to the brook, or a penny for sweets to the Red Bull of the Prairies. But the boy really is pretending to be a man; or even a man of the world; which would seem a far more horrific metamorphosis. Schoolboys in my time could be blasted with the horrible revelation of having a sister, or even a Christian name. And the deadly nature of this blow really consisted in the fact that it cracked the whole convention of our lives; the convention that each of us was on his own; an independent gentleman living on private means. The secret that each of us did in fact possess a family, and parents who paid for our support, was conventionally ignored and only revealed in moments of maddened revenge. But the point is that there was already a faint touch of corruption in this convention; precisely because it was more serious and less frank than the tarradiddles of infancy. We had begun to be what no children are - snobs. Children disinfect all their dramatic impersonations by saying "Let us pretend." We schoolboys never said "Let us pretend"; we only pretended.
[GKC Autobiography CW16:61-63]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

UNL Chesterton Society Takes Off!


We had three people at our meeting tonight, two of which had never read Chesterton before! Pray for us!

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Experience at Chesterton Conference 2008

“They do not want regular plenty, but irregular wealth…They want Surprise.”

--G.K. Chesterton, “The Surprise”

Yes, I was one of the attendees of the 2008 G.K. Chesterton Conference, the
Orthodoxy Centennial, and I think that “Surprise” is one of the best one word
descriptions of it. Not that I came expecting nothing, and was gloriously
surprised. It was so good, that I could expect and expect and still be
In the first place, I was surprised that I was able to attend at all. But
that does not pertain to the conference itself, so I will pass over it.
Second, I received a very pleasant sort of “Wake Up, you need to go to this”
when I saw that Dr. Jennifer Overkamp, a resident of the same city as myself,
would be on the program. I had met her just a few weeks before.
Third, I found the abundance of attendees quite refreshing--especially after I
saw a friend of mine, went to talk to him, and “got lost” in a large crowd of
homeschoolers that I had not met and probably would never had otherwise.
Apparently, I never found my way out. My membership on this blog is one of the
results, and they‘re not over yet.
Fourth, I was struck by the utter fascination provided by the speeches,
especially the ones that “expanded” Chesterton into the world of Pascal, Jane
Austen (I learned more about Austen from the conference than I did from Pride
and Prejudice!), and the Pro-Life movement.
Fifth, I was surprised by the utter accessibility of the conference
“dignitaries;” I was able to talk to five of the speakers (including Mr.
Alquhist) and eat with two of them.
Sixth, I got to serve mass outside my diocese for the first time in the most
beautiful cassock and surplice I have ever worn.
And last, but not least, I was shocked when I got home and found that one of
the books I bought was by a radical feminist. It made good firewood, which was
not a surprise. I got a very good replacement by Jacques Martain, and that WAS
a surprise.
In other words, unless you know you hate literary conferences or are an
anti-Chestertonian, you MUST go to the 2009 conference.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Request

This actually came originally from Dale Ahlquist and hasn't really been fulfilled. I know this is a little funny to be asking about at this time of year, but I'd really like to have the Chesterton conference attendees on this blog write about their experience of the conference, particularly for the sake of those who weren't able to attend or those who might be thinking about attending this year's conference.

Fire away!

The Transition has Finally Begun

Thank you for your most generous and extreme patience! We've finally started our transition to transform the Chesterteens/Flying-ins in to two separate blogs. I've sent out invitations to everyone I could find who is a current contributor to this blog to join the new Flying-ins.

All current contributors are welcome to contribute to both blogs. The Chesterteens blog will focused on discussions closely related to Chestertons writings and will be of particular interest and appropriateness for high schoolers. The Flying-ins is much more open-ended and can include lots of stuff more loosely related to Chesterton.

Thanks and God Bless!

Mrs. VH