Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A thought or two on "Charles Dickens A Critical Study" by G. K. Chesterton

I did , in January, read this

1929 Dodd Mead & Co printing
of the 1906 copyright of
Charles Dickens 
 A Critical Study
 by G. K. Chesterton.

Thumbing through my notebook I see that while I fell short of writing a proper review of it I did jot down a few thoughts.

I was given this book a number of years ago and it has languished on my shelf primarily because I have not read much of  Charles Dickens.

Mr. Chesterton's writing often references
the luminaries of his day and the political social and literary climate of the time. In addition to not knowing much about Dickens, there is all that  I have never learned about England's history, as well as that which I may have once encountered and have now forgotten and yet, I was amazed at how much there was to glean, how much was still available to me in Chesterton's narrative, even when ensconced in specifics for which I had little reference. Though I often couldn't place or affirm many of  Chesterton's allusions and references,  I was, like a bird at picnic, well fed on crumbs.

Take for example this little gem found on page 161:
He could not help falling into that besetting sin or weakness of the modern progressive, the habit of regarding the contemporary questions as the eternal questions and the latest word  as the last....He could not help seeing the remotest peaks lit up by the raging bonfire of his own passionate political crisis." 

~the contemporary questions as the eternal questions and the latest word as the last~  

There is just a big lovely breath in that little phrase, isn't there?  

Here is a link on google's free Ebook site to some pages where Mr. GKC discusses "this thing we call fiction." Peek in around page 83.  The whole book is available there. 

Well I must away...and make some serious preparations for some very special visitors! 
Until next time....

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

You are happy! To Paraphrase G.K. Chesterton

 I came across a quote this morning that has piqued my interest in reading The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton  (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2006.)

 In his Autobiography, Chesterton writes that
“At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence.  The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy” (99).

"...submerged sunrise of wonder..."  yes...

Friday, March 2, 2018

May Thoughtful Honest Public Dialogue Prevail

     It's generally considered a good thing to be an assertive person; I don't mean aggressive, that's different.   If being assertive looks like standing up straight, aggressive would be a forward lunge and passive might be leaning backward.

   And me, I must admit that I find myself leaning back in the public conversations of the day.  I find myself wondering about the scope of my vantage point, the validity of circumstances as presented and the possibility of hidden implications and unforeseen consequences of the proposals and platforms of the day.  It is a lot to sort through.

    I find myself listening carefully to others' assertions and though I believe that well-honed common sense is often enough, I recently ran across some notes from a class my husband took years ago with a more formal review of how assertions can be sorted out. I decided to flesh the notes out with some examples and found it helpful to put names on what I tend to do intuitively.  Perhaps you might find it helpful too.

To begin I started thinking about the word "assertion" and made a list of synonyms:  
 a declaration
 a contention
 a claim
 an opinion
 a pronouncement
 an avowal
 a protestation
 or simply a statement.  

Judging the acceptability of specific assertions begins with recognizing what type of statement it is.
*What's the assertion based on?
* Is it a description, an interpretation or an evaluation? 

 Three general types of Assertion  with an example in italics

1. Description  (based on the senses, or       experience)
    a. 1st hand     This is what happened to me...
    b. 2nd hand   This is what he told me...

2. Interpretation (based on various derivations of meaning)
    a. Internal states  I know what he was thinking.
    b. Causal relationships.  Causality is, by definition, interpretive, the answers we can give to "why" questions involving such causes as material, form, agent and end. In other words,  physical realities, circumstances, human actions and choices, overarching purposes or agendas. I had no choice, I had to build the fence strong enough to keep my cows home and it was the only material I could afford. 
    c. Comparisons and contrasts  Scales of 1-10, less or more... This is more important than that... 
    d. Categories or alternatives:  qualities or chain of events according to type. What might be appropriate for adults may not be for children.

3. Evaluation  (based on approval or disapproval - emotive language) I don't care if it is legal, it still isn't right.
Of course one assertion could and often does involve all three types of assertions; a first or second hand description, interpreted and emotionally evaluated. 

And then there is the matter of whether a statement is:

1. Presumably true ( in favor
2. Questionable (creating a burden of proof
3. False

Vouching sources for determining validity include:

A. Our own sense experience/ reason
B. Personal Testimony  
     (While sources A & B can receive
     presumption, that is, be assumed true unless further information  proves otherwise, neither A nor B sources can speak for assertions of interpretation or evaluation.
C. Common Knowledge
D. Expert Opinion ( sources C & D can ameliorate the burden of proof)

The likelihood is, even without formally thinking about such distinctions, they are operating in your daily listening and responding; but if you'll allow me an assertion of opinion, it's worth the effort to renew and increase our communication skills consciously, for no matter the issue, our public dialogue needs thoughtful and honest tending.