My Thoughts

There is much hue and cry these days over speech and freedom. In the right hand are those who speak of their right to speak freely without license while in the left are those who have nothing to say but the uncommon sense to wag their chattering tongues incessantly.

Supposedly, Voltaire once was of the mind, though it is a question as to whether he ever said it aloud, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Though less dramatic perhaps prudence might have been better satisfied leaving off “to the death.” Though we have the freedom to speak our minds, we ought not feel free to speak foolishly or to utter vulgar profanities; freedom is never license to exercise libertine sacrilege. Most are familiar with profanity though less so with Vulgarity,—they are not the same. Chesterton defined Vulgarity this way:

When the mind of man stretches itself, in order to show off, and is still stunted, that is the revelation that I mean. It is by the showing off that we see how little there is to show. When somebody tries to impress us, either with his wit or assurance, or knowledge of the world, or power, or grace, or even poetry and ideality, and in the very act of doing so shows he has low ideas of all things—that is Vulgarity. In other words, a thing is only vulgar when its best is base. ~G.K.C., On Vulgarity – In Defense of Sanity (1930)

I have come to believe that folklore has had it dreadfully wrong and has possibly never been quite right in describing trolls. Fabulists have forever argued over whether trolls are ugly and slow-witted or look and behave exactly like human beings with no particularly grotesque characteristics about them. I am of a mind they are for most all of both, looking and behaving exactly as rather unkempt, slow-witted creatures—somewhat akin to Yeti and Bigfoot—who prefer hiding under artificial rocks and well-appointed caves equipped with 5G wi-fi, thus, providing anonymity while proving positive identification difficult. Trolls are difficult to spot but readily discernible for they have great difficulty expressing a coherent thought without embellishing it with vulgar profanities.  

The one thing trolls abhor is philosophy, the love of wisdom, which any honest troll eschews as staunch as a vampire avoids daylight. Trolls would rather burn a man for his philosophy than permit a possible micro-cranial infection.

But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century, in the decadence of the great revolutionary period. General theories are everywhere contemned; the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man. Atheism itself is too theological for us to-day. Revolution itself is too much of a system; liberty itself is too much of a restraint. We will have no generalizations.

At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, “Life is not worth living.” We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.

This was certainly not the idea of those who introduced our freedom. When the old liberals removed the gags from all the heresies, their idea was that religious and philosophical discoveries might thus be made. Their view was that cosmic truth was so important that every one ought to bear independent testimony. The modern idea is that cosmic truth is so unimportant that it cannot matter what any one says. The former freed inquiry as men loose a noble hound; the latter frees inquiry as men fling back into the sea a fish unfit for eating. Never has there been so little discussion about the nature of men as now, when, for the first time, any one can discuss it. The old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion. Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it. ~G.K. Chesterton, Introductory Remarks, Heretics (1905).

I spent several enjoyable hours Friday and Saturday evening virtually attending the thirty-ninth Chesterton Society Conference. There were too many highlights to mention but one was particularly memorable. Dale Ahlquist stated in his presentation that Chesterton was a prophet in the truest sense of the word. I have said this before, and I stand by my conviction, no prophet in the history of prophecy has been more prophetic than G.K. Chesterton—or more accurate. Randomly pick up any book, read any essay or story, and find a quote for whatever ails you. If trolls would read, read Chesterton.

Just my thoughts for a Monday, for what it is worth.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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