Posts Tagged ‘Chesterton’


back in the atmosphere

“Drops of Jupiter”, by Train: a beautiful song, full of strangeness and wonder. An explanation of what it’s about and what inspired it may be found here, although the song’s one of those where it gains depth but loses some of its wildness and mystery once you understand it, so I recommend not clicking through there.

The core of the song is the question posed by the 3rd verse: the lady has ascended, transcended, danced along the light of day: become something finer and wilder, “refining fires burning me to spit and spirit” (Revere, by John Smith), gone on wonderful journeys, moved up in the universe – the guy she leaves behind has to ask whether her fabulous gnosis leaves room for all the little human things she (they) once enjoyed:

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken,
Your best friend always sticking up for you
(Even when I know you’re wrong)
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance,
Five-hour phone conversations,
The best soy latte that you ever had… and me

(A similar anguish is evoked by Master Rudd in Mike Carey’s Lucifer comic, where he incites the grief of the damned by calling to their memories times of love in mortal flesh, losing and finding oneself in every breath of one’s lover; and perhaps now their beloved “sups with the angels, and cannot recall thy name.”)

Chesterton addressed this issue in Manalive: in Heaven, will there be a house with a green lamp-post and a hedge? Innocent Smith’s gives a very vehement, very Chestertonian answer:

`My grandmother,’ I said in a low tone, `would have said that we were all in exile, and that no earthly house could cure the holy home-sickness that forbids us rest.’

`I think that must be the reason,’ he said–`the secret of this life of man, so ecstatic and so unappeased. But I think there is more to be said. I think God has given us the love of special places, of a hearth and of a native land, for a good reason… Because otherwise,’ he said, pointing his pole out at the sky and the abyss, `we might worship that.’

`What do you mean?’ I demanded.

`Eternity,’ he said in his harsh voice, `the largest of the idols– the mightiest of the rivals of God.’

`You mean pantheism and infinity and all that,’ I suggested.

`I mean,’ he said with increasing vehemence, `that if there be a house for me in heaven it will either have a green lamp-post and a hedge, or something quite as positive and personal as a green lamp-post and a hedge. I mean that God bade me love one spot and serve it, and do all things however wild in praise of it, so that this one spot might be a witness against all the infinities and the sophistries, that Paradise is somewhere and not anywhere, is something and not anything. And I would not be so very much surprised if the house in heaven had a real green lamp-post after all.’

(In John’s Gospel there’s a hint of this too: when John finds the empty tomb, the detail which causes him to believe is the folded graveclothes: Jesus (now transcended, able to walk through walls) has folded his shroud just as he folded his bedclothes when waking up in the morning.)


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There Are Real Things

Theatrical Unreality

There Are Real Things (click for larger version)

A Ballade of Theatricals

Though all the critics’ canons grow–
Far seedier than the actors’ own–
Although the cottage-door’s too low–
Although the fairy’s twenty stone–
Although, just like the telephone,
She comes by wire and not by wings,
Though all the mechanism’s known–
Believe me, there are real things.

Yes, real people–even so–
Even in a theatre, truth is known,
Though the agnostic will not know,
And though the gnostic will not own,
There is a thing called skin and bone,
And many a man that struts and sings
Has been as stony-broke as stone . . .
Believe me, there are real things

There is an hour when all men go;
An hour when man is all alone.
When idle minstrels in a row
Went down with all the bugles blown–
When brass and hymn and drum went down,
Down in death’s throat with thunderings–
Ah, though the unreal things have grown,
Believe me, there are real things.


Prince, though your hair is not your own
And half your face held on by strings,
And if you sat, you’d smash your throne–
–Believe me, there are real things.

– G. K. Chesterton

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