83 YEARS AGO, G. K. Chesterton, one of the great thinkers, writers, philosophers and wits of the 20th Century (and one of my all time heroes) passed away. Two years ago, I cited his views on diversity and family, but didn’t know the source. Turns out it was his landmark work Heretics.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
“Modern writers have suggested that the family is a bad institution [because it] is not always very congenial. Of course, the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy… The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind. Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world. They are dismayed and terrified by the largeness and variety of the family. I do not say, for a moment, that the flight to this narrower life may not be the right thing for the individual…but I do say that anything is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.”
Somewhere in the lush undergrowth of G.K. Chesterton’s essays is a delightful little piece about tolerance. In this essay, Chesterton avers that, because we crave diversity (the ultimate human adventure) some of us move away from our parochial towns or suburbs into the heart of a throbbing metropolis. And there, amid the smorgasbord of languages and cultures, hip deep in the goulash of hobbies, fancies and obsessions, we are able to find a group of people…exactly like ourselves. In their presence we come more and more to believe that we are the norm, and that there is something wrong with those who are not precisely like us.
If you want a real challenge, on the other hand, if you truly desire to learn tolerance, talk to the guy across the hall. Or the woman in the next cubicle. Or the couple in the front pew. Or simply sit down and…
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