Thursday, February 17, 2005

Worth Doing Badly


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." -- G.K. Chesterton

I read with great appreciation last Friday's post, written by my good friend and skillful mainstay of this blog. I also noted with interest the perceptive posts of our thoughtful guests. It put me in mind of the following lines, written by Chesterton, almost presciently, in the years before the First World War, as though he could foresee the conflicts and the coming bloodshed of the world's bloodiest century.

The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark. . .

The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad lamps,
they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die. . .

But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?


So the decision before us is to choose for which side to fight. We have no guarantee of success. There is no value in smug, phony rectitude. The promise, I suppose, is not in the winning, but in the fighting. As Mother Teresa said, "God does not ask us to be successful; God asks us to be faithful."

A Chesterton scholar spoke of the outline of a white horse, exposed long ago by the local folk, by plucking the turf from the white stone on an English hill. For many years, the people kept the White Horse visible by constant clearing, keeping the encroaching weeds and soil from covering the mythic figure.

"The Ballad of the White Horse" reminds us, she wrote:

"It is not the moral tradition that keeps us, it is we who keep (or do not keep) it.”

5 Comments:

Blogger Harry said...

You consistantly write good stuff.

2/18/2005 05:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

I agree totally with Harry's comment. And you make us think, which is a pleasant surprise these days.

Sorry to go completely off topic but there's a blog you guys really need to see. Here's the URL:

Paper Sack LifetimeI think you will appreciate his brand of humour. He "kills" me, as they say.

2/18/2005 05:44:00 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

What kills me lately is the snafu betwixt Blogger and Pop-up Stopper that won't allow comments on some sites. *growls*

2/18/2005 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

All right, it's 6 am, and owls are supposed to be asleep-- no more thinking today, please.

Seriously, it's very good. I'm impressed.

2/20/2005 07:45:00 AM  
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