images of giftedness in G. K. Chesterton

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I’m on a G. K. Chesterton binge right now, reading a variety of his books. Reading the books is a refreshing exercise. I have to concentrate on it. One cannot skim his books. Each sentence has such meaning and yet each gets more meaning from the sentences around it. That seems such an obvious thing to say. but it really I can read a paragraph or two and then sit and reflect upon what it means.
G. K. Chesterton at the age of 13

G. K. Chesterton at the age of 13. Picture from Wikimedia Commons

I keep finding within Chesteron’s works descriptions about intellectual giftedness. Since the challenge of being a gifted adult is a topic of interest to me, I thought I’d share these passages with you.

From the preface of G. K. Chesteron’s book about G.B.Shaw comes this passage:

“But the truth is that the very rapidity of such a man’s mind makes him seem slow in getting to the point. It is positively because he is quick-witted that he is long-winded. A quick eye for ideas may actually make a writer slower in reaching his goal, just as a quick eye for landscapes might make a motorist slow in reaching Brighton. An original man has to pause at every allusion or simile to re-explain historical parallels, to reshape distorted words. Any ordinary leader-writer (let us say) might write swiftly and smoothly something like this: “The elements of religion in the Puritan rebellion, if hostile to art, yet saved the movement from some of the evils in which the French Revolution involved morality.” Now a man like Mr. Shaw, who has his own views on everything, would be forced to make the sentence long and broken instead of swift and smooth. He would say something like: “The element of religion, as I explain religion, in the Puritan rebellion (which you wholly misunderstand), if hostile to art – that is what I mean by art – may have saved it from some evils (remember my definition of evil) in which the French Revolution – of which I have my own opinion, involved morality, which I will define for you in just a minute.” That is the worst of being a really universal skeptic and philosopher; it is such slow work. A very forest of man’s thoughts chokes up his thoroughfare. A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.”

In Chesterton’s book about Shakespeare I found this description of Hamlet:

“Hamlet was a man in whom the faculty of action had been clogged, not by the smallness of his moral nature, but by the greatness of his intellectual. Actions were really important to him, only they were not quite so dazzling and dramatic as thoughts. He belonged to a type of man which some men will never understand, the man for whom what happens inside his head does actually and literally happen; for whom ideas are adventures, for whom metaphors are living monsters, for whom an intellectual parallel has all the irrevocable sanctity of a marriage ceremony. Hamlet failed, but through the greatness of his upper, not the weakness of his lower, storey. He was a giant, but he was top-heavy.”

I feel a strange sense of kinship reading Chesterton.

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