Tuesday, August 5, 2008

From the Books: On Vows

One of my absolute favorite writers of all time has to be G.K. Chesterton. He writes stories, poetry, essays and even a touch of theology. He's been compared to C.S. Lewis, but as the pastor at my church said this Sunday, if you look closely Lewis simply plagiarized most of his good ideas from Chesterton. Ol' GK is not nearly as dry as Lewis sometimes is, I think he has an impish sense of humor and he's writing with a slight tongue in cheek as he turns ideas on their heads.

So today's quote is from his essay, "A Defence of Rash Vows". He says that we view people who make crazy vows, such as chaining two mountains together or counting every leaf on every third tree, we view them as insane. When really a vow is the purest form of rationality for it gives us limits and allows us to accomplish things.

"The revolt against vows has been carried in our day [and he's writing in the early 1900's] even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil [or by God, or by society], instead of being as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black-and-white contradiction in two words - 'free love' - as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-flavoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment.... But what have lovers to do with ridiculous affectations of fearing no man or woman? They know that in the turning of a hand the whole cosmic engine to the remotest star may become an instrument of music or an instrument of torture.... As we have said, it is exactly this back-door, this sense of having a retreat behind us, that is, to our minds, the sterilizing spirit in modern pleasure. Everywhere there is the persistent and insane attempt to obtain pleasure without paying for it."

His essays are these short gems that begin with a tree or a ceiling and impishly move to tying it in to some bigger idea. And usually I find him dab on. The very nature of love cannot be free but must be sacrificial. This any married person knows... or quickly finds out!

1 comment:

Michelle said...

So true. I think that is why people divorce so quickly. They think love is a feeling. It is not. Love is action. Love is acting in a certain way even when you don't feel like it. You are right when you say love must be sacrificial. I know it as well as any other married person. Paul and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last week. Seems to have gone by so quickly too.