a cosmic oath of allegiance
“It is futile to talk of reform without reference to form.” – The Superstition of Divorce
My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes delight in my ways. (Proverbs 23:26)
During Advent do you have feelings that seem at odds with each other? Perhaps this Advent in particular with the country’s division over so many things including the election, these conflicting feelings have intensified even more for you. If so, we can find our help yet again from the man known as both the Apostle of common sense and the Prince of Paradox, G. K. Chesterton.
His solution is to take a “cosmic oath of allegiance” for the purposes of faith and revolution. Why? Because we love a fallen thing so much that we want to improve it – be that a marriage, a country or even ourselves. And not just improve it but to love it right back to its perfect form again. Just as God wants to do for us. It can’t be “building it back better” because we are not looking for some unimagined degree. No, we must acknowledge that it is we who have deviated from that which was already made perfect by God, whether than be a union, a universe, or ourselves when Adam and Eve were first created. The original form must be the aim of our faith to improve it and the revolution of the soul to do it. As this blog says in its legend: “I am starting a revolution; I am re-forming the line”.
“Before any cosmic act of reform we must have a cosmic oath of allegiance. A man must be interested in life, then he could be disinterested in his views of it. “My son give me thy heart”; the heart must be fixed on the right thing: the moment we have a fixed heart we have a free hand. I must pause to anticipate an obvious criticism. It will be said that a rational person accepts the world as mixed of good and evil with a decent satisfaction and a decent endurance. But this is exactly the attitude which I maintain to be defective. It is, I know, very common in this age; it was perfectly put in those quiet lines of Matthew Arnold which are more piercingly blasphemous than the shrieks of Schopenhauer–
“Enough we live:–and if a life, With large results so little rife, Though bearable, seem hardly worth This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth.”
I know this feeling fills our epoch, and I think it freezes our epoch. For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Flag of the World, Orthodoxy, 1908