There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past.
-G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World
“Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.”
–G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World
Our society is so abnormal that the normal man never dreams of having the normal occupation of looking after his own property. When he chooses a trade, he chooses one of the ten thousand trades that involve looking after other people’s property.
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.
This has been one of my favourite quotations from Chesterton. If we believe that everyone has a say, that everyone’s voice counts, why should we exclude those voices from the past? A democracy that ignores the voice of time-tested tradition is really no democracy at all, but an “oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” And an arrogant one, at that.
Where character forbids self-indulgence, transcendence still hovers around.
–Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences.
Weaver is arguing that the contemporary loss of pride in craftsmanship (think industrialism and consumerism) is due, foundationally, to the abandonment of the ideals, the abandonment of the abstract true and good. When workers are living in right accord with the transcendent, the result will be that their work is the translating, or the fleshing out, of the ideals, “a bringing of the ideal from potentiality into actuality.”
However, we have abandoned the ideals and now give supreme value to what works, to the practical. Weaver tells us the inevitable result:
When utilitarianism becomes enthroned and the worker is taught that work is use and not worship, interest in quality begins to decline.
The road to the recovery of craftsmanship in work is the fresh remembrance that all of our work is to be bringing the ideals to life, interpreting that which is transcendent. More so, it is looking to the One in whom all truth is sourced. Essentially, it is the realization that all of life is worship before the holy and triune God. It is Luther’s realization of Coram Deo: we live every second of every day before the face of The Almighty. It is the glad acceptance of the believer’s position in Christ, and the ambitious obedience of our Lord’s commands.