C. C. Elfstrom
I have come to believe in the idea that there might be more drama going on in my own backyard at noon than there is downtown at midnight! This is the kind of imagination I have learned from the outlandish, dearly eccentric, and very wise G. K. Chesterton. His writings were the ones to ignite my Christian imagination. And I am eternally grateful that my imagination has served me well. Chesterton taught me how to see circumstances not as they seem, but upside down and backward, so as to see them more clearly. Not simply as a child reading Alice (the author of which was a dear friend of George MacDonald), but as a mature person understanding the "romance of orthodoxy." How fun it is to learn from him.
Chesterton attended art school in London and then became a writer. He wore a cape and carried a swordstick. He looked like nobody. His thoughts were new and challenging. But how did he come to think with such a fresh perspective? Chesterson said, "I for one can testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence, which helped me to see things in a certain way from the start; . . . Of all the stories I have read, . . . it remains the most real, the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase the most like life. It is called The Princess and the Goblin and is by George MacDonald." It was the place of fairy and imagination that spoke to Chesterton so deeply, so accurately. (Of course, C.S. Lewis gave to MacDonald the same honor.)
Absorbing good, fantastic stories of bravery can be the underpinnings for the times we become the real travelers in dark places, where we need the foundation of God's true fairyland of imagination to carry us through. We can be brave enough, with God's guidance, to rename that place and see it with new eyes. But what if our challenge most often occurs in the everyday moments, the routine. To see the familiar with new eyes, with the right kind of imagination? Why is imagination important when things seem ordinary? I believe it is because it brings us Joy. (Chesterton might have learned this lesson first in his art classes. It is there you are taught to see before you can draw.)
One of my favorite passages of Chesterton's is in Orthodoxy (1908). Chesterton is describing the repetition we see in nature and gives a fanciful thought to why this is not simply routine clockwork:
"The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning. . . . It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. . . . The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again" and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. . . . "
"I had always believed that the world involved some magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller."
Thank you, dear Chesterton, forever! For whenever I think of God as younger than we are, my heart is struck with your wonder!
C. C. Elfstrom loves music (always!), classic films (on weekends; even the B's), reading (at night), and vintage things (of all sorts); married a guy who likes the same.
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