Facts,’ murmured Basil, like one mentioning some strange, far-off animals, how facts obscure the truth. I may be silly—in fact, I’m off my head—but I never could believe in that man—what’s his name, in those capital stories?—Sherlock Holmes. Every detail points to something, certainly; but generally to the wrong thing. Facts point in all directions, it seems to me, like the thousands of twigs on a tree. It’s only the life of the tree that has unity and goes up—only the green blood that springs, like a fountain, at the stars.’
Chesterton in The Club of Queer Trades
If I take it for granted (as most modern people do) that Jesus of Nazareth was one of the ordinary teachers of men, then I find Him splendid and suggestive indeed, but full of riddles and outrageous demands, by no means so workable and everyday an adviser as many heathens and many Jesuits.
But if I put myself hypothetically into the other attitude, the case becomes curiously arresting and even thrilling. If I say ‘Suppose the Divine did really walk and talk upon the earth, what should he be likely to think of it?’ – then the foundations of my mind are moved. So far as I can form any conjecture, I think we should see in such a being exactly the perplexities that we see in the central figure of the Gospels…
I think he would seem to us to contradict himself; because, looking down on life like a map, he would see a connection between things which to us are disconnected. I think, however, that he would always ring true to our own sense of right, but ring (so to speak) too loud and too clear. He would be too good but never too bad for us: ‘Be ye perfect,’ I think there would be, in the nature of things, some tragic collision between him and the humanity he had created, culminating in something would be at once a crime and an expiation…
I think, in short, that he would give us a sensation that he was tuning all our standards upside down, and yet also a sensation that he had undeniably put them the right way.
Chesterton in The Hibbert Journal, 1909
Chesterton On Birth Control
Everybody believes in birth control, and nearly everybody has exercised some control over the conditions of birth. People do not get married as somnambulists or have children in their sleep. But throughout numberless ages and nations, the normal and real birth control is called self control. In so far as there is a local evil of excess, it comes with all other evils from the squalor and despair of our decaying industrialism.
But the thing the capitalist newspapers call birth control is not control at all. It is the idea that people should be, in one respect, completely and utterly uncontrolled, so long as they can evade everything in the function that is positive and creative, and intelligent and worthy of a free man. … The nearest and most respectable parallel would be that of the Roman epicure, who took emetics at intervals all day so that he might eat five or six luxurious dinners daily.
Now any man’s common sense, unclouded by newspaper science and long words, will tell him at once that an operation like that of the epicures is likely in the long run even to be bad for his digestion and pretty certain to be bad for his character. Men left to themselves gave sense enough to know when a habit obviously savours of perversion and peril. And if it were the fashion in fashionable circles to call the Roman expedient by the name of “Diet Control,” and to talk about it in a lofty fashion as merely “the improvement of life and the service of life” (as if it meant no more than the mastery of man over his meals), we should take the liberty of calling it cant and saying that it had no relation to the reality in debate.
More reading selections from Joseph Pearse’s biography *Wisdom and Innocence *here: