A man’s soul is as full of voices as a forest…

AsAForest640A man’s soul is as full of voices as a forest; there are ten thousand tongues there like all the tongues of the trees: fancies, follies, memories, madnesses, mysterious fears, and more mysterious hopes.  All the settlement and sane government of life consists in coming to the conclusion that some of those voices have authority and others not.  You may have an impulse to fight your enemy or an impulse to run away from him; a reason to serve your country or a reason to betray it; a good idea for making sweets or a better idea for poisoning them.  The only test I know by which to judge one argument or inspiration from another is ultimately this: that all the noble necessities of man talk the language of eternity.  When man is doing the three or four things that he was sent on this earth to do, then he speaks like one who shall live for ever.  A man dying for his country does not talk as if local preferences could change.  Leonidas does not say, “In my present mood, I prefer Sparta to Persia.” William Tell does not remark, “The Swiss civilization, so far as I can yet see, is superior to the Austrian.” When men are making commonwealths, they talk in terms of the absolute, and so they do when they are making (however unconsciously) those smaller commonwealths which are called families.  There are in life certain immortal moments, moments that have authority.  Lovers are right to tattoo each other’s skins and cut each other’s names about the world; they do belong to each other, in a more awful sense than they know.

– G. K. Chesterton, Questions Of Divorce, The Uses of Diversity, 1920

Read the rest of the essay: Questions of Divorce

Read Chesterton’s The Superstition of Divorce

Read the lecture: The Superstition of Divorce ( Ahlquist )

Image background source: Epping Forest Centenary Walk 2 – Sept 2008″ by Diliff – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Epping Forest is an area of ancient woodland in south-east England, straddling the border between north-east Greater London and Essex. It is a former royal forest, and is managed by the City of London Corporation.

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