Quote: Chesterton on Childlike Delight

Continuing our Summer Quotation Series from Hannah Eagleson.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

The second quotation in this series comes from G. K. Chesterton, good-humored apologist and writer:

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

– p. 61, Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1994

I think the childlike delight Chesterton describes is vitally needed in the academic life. There is so much repetition in the daily work of teaching or reading or conducting experiments. Grading or visiting the library or turning up in the lab can feel like an endless routine of the same things. But Chesterton reminds me that one day I may be strong enough to see the delight in every moment. To revel every time I teach A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to rejoice in the hundredth student’s growth in freshman writing, to smile when I sit back down in Special Collections to transcribe a passage from the book I have been working on for days – to do any of this is to seek the Father from whom all good gifts come.

What helps you to keep approaching your discipline with the delight Chesterton describes? What areas of your academic work are in danger of losing it? What helps you in recovering it when it is being lost?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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Hannah Eagleson

Hannah Eagleson is a writer/editor on staff with InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). She edits ESN's collaboratively written devotional for academics. Hannah also crafts other community-building events and materials for ESN. She holds a PhD in English literature, and she’s working on a novel about a dragon who gave up fending off knights to become a tea importer in eighteenth-century England.

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  • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
    Micheal Hickerson commented on July 13, 2011 Reply

    Hannah, thanks for sharing this quote: it’s one of my favorites from Chesterton. It makes me wonder about the academy’s supposed need to always be on the “cutting edge” of scholarship.

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