Posts tagged G.K. Chesterton

Descriptive Writing in Kazakhstan: G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton is a master of description which my Kazakh students could take heed to. Here are some examples of a character of his short story “The Secret Garden.”
“When Valentin arrived he was already dressed in black clothes and the red rosette–an elegant figure, his dark beard already streaked with grey…He saw all the other pillars of the little party; he saw Lord Galloway, the English Ambassador–a choleric old man with a russet face like an apple, wearing the blue ribbon of the Garter. He saw Lady Galloway, slim and threadlike, with silver hair and a face sensitive and superior. He saw her daughter, Lady Margaret Graham, a plae and pretty girl with an elfish face and copper-coloured hair. He saw the Duchess of Mont St. Michel, black-eyed and opulent, and with her two daughters, black-eyed and opulent also. He saw Dr. Simon, a typical Frechn scientist, with glasses, a pointed broawn beard, and a forehead barred with those parallel wrinkles which are the penalty of superciliousness, since they come through constantly elevating the eyebrows.”

Another description by G.K. Chesterton from his short story entitled “The Blue Cross:” “There was nothing notable about this man, except a slight contrast between the holiday gaiety of his clothes and the official gravity of his face. His clothes included a slight, pale grey jacket, a white waistcoat, and a silver straw hat with a grey-blue ribbon. His lean face was dark by contrast, and ended in a curt black beard that looked Spanish and suggested an Elizabethan ruff. He was smoking a cigarette with the seriousness of an idler…”

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Democracy and Unchecked Power

I enjoy reading British authors C.S. Lewis and also G.K. Chesterton but for today I’ll use a quote from Lewis because politics have been on my mind a lot lately.  One can’t help it while being back in the U.S. with the constant bombardment of updates about the presidential candidates (I still think that Hillary is not entirely out off the picture yet).

I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man.  I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason.  A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government.  The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they are not true.  And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure.  I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself.  I don’t deserve a share in governing a henroost, much less a nation.  Nor do most people – all the people who believer advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumors.  The real reason for democracy is just the reverse.  Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows…”

I wonder if C.S. Lewis was referring to a particular “fallen man” named Stalin and all the slogans he promoted during the Five Year Plans in the 1930s.  I’m just curious. Sadly, C.S. Lewis died on the very same day that President John F. Kennedy was shot, so there was little fanfare about Lewis’ passing.   JFK was an ardent anti-communist, I wonder what HE knew about the USSR people under Stalin?  Of course, you wouldn’t know from reading today’s history books that JFK was so vehemently opposed to communism except for the little incident that happened at the Bay of Pigs and the build up to that scenario with the Cuban missile crisis. 

Yes, I am a fallen creature as Lewis himself admits yet I am proud to be a part of the American democracy.  However, we seemingly are on the threshold of maybe losing the battles for our cherished democracy that were so hard fought to preserve our freedoms.  Lord, may that never be.  However, I think the unchecked power is the mainstream media and what lies they continually promote. I rejoice that the Old Grey Lady is tanking as are other tabloids that promote themselves as unbiased newspapers. Hopefully the Internet will continue our freedom of thought and speech, a luxury people in Ukraine and Kazakhstan did not have under communism.

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“To Catch Him in His Words”: Gotcha!!!

G.K. Chesterton is well known for his pithy sayings, he was also king of the “Gotcha!” type fictional detective stories about Father Brown.  This summer I want to read Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy, as well as some of his other writings.  The following are quotes that I like as a teacher of English in a foreign land such as Kazakhstan.  Chesterton was British and lived in a different century but his written words ring true today in Kazakhstan.


A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.


Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.


Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.


Education is the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do not want to know.


I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.


If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.


In matters of truth the fact that you don’t want to publish something is, nine times out of ten, a proof that you ought to publish it.


No man who worships education has got the best out of education… Without a gentle contempt for education no man’s education is complete.


The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.


The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.


There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.


Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.


Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.


You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.


Jesus started a revolution with His words two millennium ago.  In Mark 12:13, it is recorded in writing that the Pharisees tried to trap him in his verbal response, so much was He hated.  He discerned His enemies’ hypocrisy and was able to speak words of truth and wisdom about taxes to His enemies.  Pay to Caesar what is his and to God what is rightfully His.  Today, April 15 is TAX day in the U.S.  Good to be reminded what Jesus thoughts were on this delicate subject.  If it had not been written down by Saint Mark, we would not know what Jesus said on this subject.  I’m also glad that Chesterton wrote down his thoughts on various subjects.  What a GREAT advertisement to writing students in Kazakhstan, write down what you know about your nation so others can benefit!!!

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