Touchstone Archives: The Lovely Dragon of Choice: “If you choose martyrdom, you are not a martyr but a suicide. The truly brave man is not the man who chooses to stay in the battle, but the one who sees that he has been chosen to fight and who has given up any choice to run away. The faithful husband is precisely he for whom infidelity has ceased to be a choice. The vagabond monks of Benedict’s day were caught in the trap of their ceaseless choosing; only with that wise vow of stability, which is a wise and brave tossing of choice to the winds, could a monk begin to climb the mountain of God.

If a group of people get together and choose to form a village, they have formed not a village but a club, a clique. The true village embraces all the romance and adventure of a pirate raid: people next door who insist on keeping chickens; a troop up the street who yell like Huns on furlough; the near genius who drinks too much, who can take your car apart and rebuild it better than it was, but who cannot keep a job; Irish and Italian boys who get into brawls now and who marry each other’s sisters later.

There they are, the crazy lot of them, from the smug churchgoer to the even smugger atheist, thrust into one cranny of a continental crust, forced by the accident of birth not only to put up with each other but also tokeep their streets clean, rebuke each other’s children, spike the punch on holidays, and bury each other at the last. When Christ asks us if we loved our neighbors, how many of us modern choosers will be hoping he means those nice people with the good grace to live far away in India, people whom we chose to help, rather than those strange and terrible beings who just happened to live on our block?

The whole of modern life, says Chesterton, is an attempt to flee from real dealings with other men and to retreat to the haven of a clique. So have we fled the family:

The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy.

(HT:On the Silent Planet)


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