Russell and Duenes

Some Desires Are Not Desirable

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G.K. Chesterton gives a climatic thought on “progress” and the good life.  Think of the relevance of this quote to our current social, political, and vocational ethos.  Chesterton is laying the groundwork for his belief (and mine) that the “adventure” of biblical orthodoxy, with its moral accountability, is alone able give us the kind of world that would be worth living in.

In modern ideal conceptions of society there are some desires that are possibly not attainable: but there are some desires that are not desirable. That all men should live in equally beautiful houses is a dream that may or may not be attained.  But that all men should live in the same beautiful house is not a dream at all; it is a nightmare.  That a man should love all old women is an ideal that may not be attainable.  But that a man should regard all old women exactly as he regards his mother is not only an unattainable ideal, but an ideal which ought not to be attained…I could never conceive or tolerate any Utopia which did not leave to me the liberty for which I chiefly care, the liberty to bind myself.  Complete anarchy would not merely make it impossible to have any discipline or fidelity; it would also make it impossible to have any fun. To take an obvious instance, it would not be worthwhile to bet if a bet were not binding.  The dissolution of all contracts would not only ruin morality but spoil sport…

The perils, rewards, punishments, and fulfillments of an adventure must be real, or the adventure is only a shifting and heartless nightmare.  If I bet I must be made to pay, or there is no poetry in betting.  If I challenge I must be made to fight, or there is no poetry in challenging.  If I vow to be faithful I must be cursed when I am unfaithful, or there is no fun in vowing…For the purpose even of the wildest romance, results must be real; results must be irrevocable…

All my modern Utopian friends look at each other rather doubtfully, for their ultimate hope is the dissolution of all special ties.  But again I seem to hear, like a kind of echo, an answer from beyond the world.  “You will have real obligations, and therefore real adventures when you get to my Utopia.  But the hardest obligation and the steepest adventure is to get there.”(From Orthodoxy)



Written by Michael Duenes

April 7, 2011 at 9:37 pm

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