Saturday, 8 March 2014

G.K. Chesterton and Humour

My initiation into the world of G.K. Chesterton was through his works of fiction or fantasy novels.
A Man Called Thursday was the beginning for me. I'd bought the book and everyone else in the family over the age of twelve read it and kept telling me I should. So I did eventually and got to the end still wondering what it was all about, but thinking it was a seriously good read.
The Father Brown series came next and then The Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte. 


This book has about 870 quotations arranged in alphabetical order and showcases what an important writer and thinker this man was, and what a wonderful sense of humour he had.
I've been reading The Napoleon of Notting Hill and the very first sentence in Chapter 1 says:

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it until the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.

Later, in Book II, Chapter 1, a young politician confronts King Auberon:

"What does it all mean?...
Are you mad?"

"Not in the least," replied the King, pleasantly. "Madmen are always serious; 
they go mad from lack of humour."


It got me thinking that many of us take ourselves too seriously; we don't know how to laugh at ourselves. We take offence at things that really should just be laughed off.
When I think about the madmen of history - Pol Pot, Stalin, Idi Amin, Hitler, to name a few - it's difficult to imagine that any sense of humour ever resided in any of them and the idea of them having laughed at themselves is inconceivable.

"Humour can get in the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.”



Linking up with Weekends with Chesterton

5 comments:

  1. I think we've all begun to take ourselves too seriously in part because we are no longer in the habit of thinking in metaphors. We take offense about everything and see so much from a literal sense. All that to say... I agree. :)

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  2. Very good points about humor, and the seriousness of a lack thereof. :-)

    My book group read The Man Who Was Thursday, and wondered together about it, even while we did agree with you, that it was amazing. I should read it again and see if at this stage in the road I grasp more of it.

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  3. Humour and poetry are both good medicine, according to Chesterton. "Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health." ~~ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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  4. I don't know much about Chesterton besides a few quotes. I need to read him some time.

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