Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Short Post About Nothing

I've always felt that people take elaborate vacations not so much for a change of scenery as a change of self. The novelty proceeds in both directions, outwardly and inwardly.

I'm not saying I'm correct about this -- everyone is different, and to each his own -- only that it seems I'm built this way. Ever since I was in my early 20s, I've worked at the problem from the other end: to paraphrase someone, don't change circumstances, change yourself.

It is axiomatic that if you're bored, it is because you are boring. I am never bored, certainly not bored enough to, say, jump from a plane or go big game hunting in Africa. I'm not even bored enough to go to a movie.

It seems not only that Chesterton was built this same way, but that it was one of his dominant messages: he was a mystic of the every day, such that "even mere existence, reduced to its most primary limits, was extraordinary enough to be exciting. Anything was magnificent as compared with nothing" (emphasis mine).

That things are is of course prior to what they are. You might say Chesterton was sufficiently astonished at the That. The What was just icing on the cake.

Not only is everything interesting, so too is nothing, or at leas nothing in particular. The esteemed Dr. Dalrymple is of the same mind:

"Being a scholar of nothing, I allow my intellectual interest to wander hither and yon. Or perhaps it is because I allow my intellectual interest to wander hither and yon that I am a scholar of nothing." He is thankful, as am I, for single-minded scholars who do the drudge work for us. To paraphrase Bo Diddley, I don't need to do those things 'cause I got them doin' it for me.

Indeed, "Whenever it is imperatively necessary for me to read a book pursuant to something that I am currently writing about, I immediately lose interest in it.... I want to read something else entirely."

That is why it is always a mistake for me to promise to write about this or that. When I do, it becomes an obligation and I get bored and oppositional. Don't tell me what to do, Bob!

As alluded to in paragraph one, I don't want to pretend my attitude is normative. If it were, nothing important would ever get done. Or, if you like, you can turn it around and say: if not for everyone else being productive and doing important stuff, I wouldn't have the time and resources to do the one thing needful!

You could summarize by saying I have Napoleon Dynamite Syndrome. So, what are you going to do today, Bob?

As Dalrymple says, there is only one thing to know: "that there is not only one big thing to know." And that thing, in my opinion, is God (Dalrymple is more or less agnostic).

There is deep orthoparadox at work here, because for practical purposes it means that God is the sum of everything we don't know. He is utter emptiness, even inside his very being. How is that? Because he is self-giving love, truth, and beauty. Which is why graces abound so long as you immediately give them away!

Gosh! I am flat out of time this morning. Busy week.

5 comments:

garyeureka said...

“Chesterton . . . was a mystic of the every day.”

In the preface to “The Collected Poems of G.K. Chesterton”, editor Daniel B. Dodson quotes G.K speaking of the poet as “the builder of bridges” who crosses “the chasm between the world of unspoken . . . truths to the world of spoken words. His triumph is when the bridge is completed and the word is spoken; above all when it is heard.”

julie said...

Indeed, "Whenever it is imperatively necessary for me to read a book pursuant to something that I am currently writing about, I immediately lose interest in it.... I want to read something else entirely."

Heh - I know that feeling. Fortunately, sometimes I'm stubborn enough to get through it in spite of myself.

mushroom said...

My knowledge is like water on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Might look like a lot but it doesn't amount to much.

garyeureka said...

I read your comment, mushroom, just as my current reading of the Ballad was of Mary speaking to King Alfred:

For you and all the kind of Christ,
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win,
And souls you hardly save.

Looks like we are in good company!

(Hope I am not troubling people with too much verse, but Bob brought up Chesterton first! And I haven't even mentioned yet his buddy, Belloc.)

mushroom said...

Ballad of the White Horse is always appropriate. DNA says I'm a fifth Irish, or that I had a fifth of Irish, but "all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad."