Saturday, 13 January 2018

What the Urge to Create is Fueled By (According to G.K. Chesterton)

    "Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I have often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of our modern world. I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it.
     The publisher said of somebody, "That man will get on; he believes in himself."
    And I remember as I lifted my head to listen, my eye caught an omnibus on which was written "Hanwell" [Insane Asylum]. I said to him "Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums."
    He said mildly that there were a good number of men after all who believed in themselves and were not in lunatic asylums.
    "Yes, there are" I retorted, "and you of all people ought to know them. That drunken poet from who you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself. That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself. If you consider your business sense instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter. Actors who can't act believe in themselves; and debtors who won't pay. It would be much truer to say that a man will certainly fail because he believes in himself. Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness. Believing utterly in one's self is a hysterical and superstitious belief like believing in Joanna Southcote [a self-proclaimed religious prophetess of the Victorian era]: the man who has it has "Hanwell" written on his face as it is written on that omnibus."
    And to this my friend the publisher made this very deep and effective reply, "Well, if a man is not to believe in himself, in what is he to believe?"
    After a long pause I replied "I will go home and write a book in answer to that question." This is the book that I have written in answer to it."
-G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"
And yet, sometimes it's healthy to pursue madness.  Because there is a form of grey, ground-down, deathly sanity that is far worse than any madness.  Better to let that madness coalesce into some shareable, forwardable, downloadable, streamable form and spread it to the world. 

(But to be fair, Chesterton wouldn't have called that madness, really.  He was a fan of expression and creativity. I just felt for those untalented hacks who believed in their own work and yearned to share it with an uncaring world.  Because I used to and I miss that.)

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