Have you ever faced uphill battles or odds unknown to others trying to get a thing done you hoped would please someone? Of course, we all have at some point, some more than others. Have you faced these things only to face complaints that it wasn’t done on time or to their liking even though the deadline passed was an arbitrary one and the product perfectly good, perhaps even excellent? Arguments of promises made (or implied ) will often arise but is that really what is at the bottom of the irritation?
Yesterday I was sick and then after I had enough energy to get up from my sickbed I had to get a job done that took up all the productive time I had left with no time or energy left to update this blog. Today, I faced a slower than normal internet connection while trying to make up for yesterday’s missing post. Why, I asked? What purpose do these interruptions serve except to feed the fear that someone will think badly of us or worse, cause us some undesirable consequence. Ah, the adventures of life. What do they mean and why do they have to happen when we are trying to be so, so, productive? Is God trying to teach us something by them?
Today is a special G. K. Chesterton post on how he felt about the interrupting “adventures” that life gives us, that happen more often than the routine machinery of the modern workaday world would like; adventures that, when you pause to consider them should be given grace as well as seen as grace in the modern “productive” society. Hopefully, after we consider what Chesterton is saying, it will change the focus of our lives and free us up to hear another text in background of our mind, something that has nothing to do with the focus of modern productivity but everything to do with the glory of God’s creation – who after all is the only one we really have to please and who is the actual provider of our means of living: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men,” (Colossians 3:23)
In the essay, On Running After One’s Hat, Chesterton explores why we get so annoyed when life doesn’t go as we have planned, why we should question the “have to get this done nows” what we call the “tyranny of the urgent”, this corporation morality on work without distractions that so many of us fear to offend.
On the surface, this essay seems very simple, almost frivolous, even from the start with the title of some comical, mundane action. But On Running After One’s Hat is a delightful candy sack of complexities, not the least of which is Chesterton’s deft and swift changing of scenarios – he goes from Battersea, London under flood waters, to waiting for a late train at a train station, to running after one’s hat in the wind as an Olympic sport, to fixing a stuck drawer in the home – in so small a space it seems you’ve spent an entire day in his company. And all of it is written while maintaining a common theme: leaving annoyance behind and embracing the wonder of the moment, adventure is more productive than drudging effort. To embrace the opportunity of adventure promises no more money, not even a longer life. But it will be a happier and more appreciated life as we let God lead us by our interrupting “adventures” back to the wonder of it.
“Many of the most purple hours of my life have been passed at Clapham Junction, which is now, I suppose, under water. I have been there in many moods so fixed and mystical that the water might well have come up to my waist before I noticed it particularly. But in the case of all such annoyances, as I have said, everything depends upon the emotional point of view. You can safely apply the test to almost every one of the things that are currently talked of as the typical nuisance of daily life….
So I do not think that it is altogether fanciful or incredible to suppose that even the floods in London may be accepted and enjoyed poetically. Nothing beyond inconvenience seems really to have been caused by them; and inconvenience, as I have said, is only one aspect, and that the most unimaginative and accidental aspect of a really romantic situation. An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. The water that girdled the houses and shops of London must, if anything, have only increased their previous witchery and wonder. For as the Roman Catholic priest in the story said: “Wine is good with everything except water,” and on a similar principle, water is good with everything except wine.”
-G. K. Chesterton, On Running After One’s Hat, On Running After One’s Hat and Other Whimsies, 1908
Read the rest of the essay along with more essays from this collection: On Running After One’s Hat