The Two Twilights
“It has been crushing for me in recent years to see so much of the goodness we have inherited dismissed so easily, the precious things being replaced with ephemeral & twisted things, and those who could transmit wisdom from the lessons of time (our elders) being dismissed with phrases such as ‘okay, boomer’.” – an observation from a fellow Christian
There’s a lot to unpack in this Advent thought, but what Chesterton is challenging us to, by way of a very humbling thought, is what our grandmothers used to mean when they would note of our bad behavior: “You’re better than that”. And that is what he means when he observes that there are two ways of looking at free will – we can give in to the pressure around us of “the load of the evil of humanity” or we can live up to the magnificence of what God has done in creating us in his image, with the potential to choose to be heroes in this life. That is what Chesterton calls a “humiliating splendor”.
“There are two equal and eternal ways of looking at this twilight world of ours: we may see it as the twilight of evening or the twilight of morning; we may think of anything, down to a fallen acorn, as a descendant or as an ancestor. There are times when we are almost crushed, not so much with the load of the evil as with the load of the goodness of humanity, when we feel that we are nothing but the inheritors of a humiliating splendour. But there are other times when everything seems primitive, when the ancient stars are only sparks blown from a boy’s bonfire, when the whole earth seems so young and experimental that even the white hair of the aged, in the fine biblical phrase, is like almond-trees that blossom, like the white hawthorn grown in May. That it is good for a man to realize that he is ‘the heir of all the ages’ is pretty commonly admitted; it is a less popular but equally important point that it is good for him sometimes to realize that he is not only an ancestor, but an ancestor of primal antiquity; it is good for him to wonder whether he is not a hero, and to experience ennobling doubts as to whether he is not a solar myth.” – G.K.Chesterton, A Defense of Nonsense, The Defendant, 1901