Monday, May 23, 2011

Shavian Cream

I’m currently reading George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton’s critical study of his great friend and antagonist in debate. This is the first time I’ve read it, and I’m surprised at how good it is, given that it’s one of Chesterton’s less celebrated works.

There is one passage that I thought was especially fine, and which is a wonderful descripton of Chesterton’s own gusto for life, and hatred for decadence and cynicism:

Nothing that he [Shaw] ever wrote is so noble as his simple reference to the sturdy man who stepped up to the Keeper of the Book of Life and said, “Put down my name, Sir.” It is true that Shaw called this heroic philosophy by wrong names and buttressed it with false metaphysics; that was the weakness of the age. The temporary decline of theology had involved in the neglect of philosophy and all fine thinking; and Bernard Shaw had to find shaky justifications in Schopenhauer for the sons of God shouting for joy. He called it the Will to Live—a phrase invented by Prussian professors who would like to exist, but can’t. Afterwards he asked people to worship the Life-Force; as if one could worship a hyphen. But though he covered it with crude new names (which are now fortunately crumbling everywhere like bad mortar) he was on the side of the good old cause; the oldest and the best of all causes, the cause of creation against destruction, the cause of yes against no, the cause of the seed against the stony earth and the star against the abyss.

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