I noticed that one reviewer said that this book was worthless. I wouldn’t go that far, but it was probably my stubbornness that made me finish the book.
There are some gems in here, though, so perhaps it was patience more than stubbornness.
One of the gems is his insistence that we be both astonished at the world and at home in it. And in this book, he sets out to prove that his faith, Christianity, is the only way to accomplish that. It is interesting that, in his defense, he says that he set out to discover something, and then found that it had already been discovered. At one point, he says that he tried to be “ten minutes in advance of the truth,” but instead, found himself to be “eighteen hundred years behind it.”
As he proceeds, he says things like, “Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness.” One of my favorites, “Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess players do.” I don’t know if I agree with that one hundred percent, but I see some truth in it. Bobby Fischer was most definitely on the edge of insanity. “Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.”
Chesterton kind of loses me, though, in his lengthy discussion of optimism and pessimism. In all, the book is quite philosophical, and I will confess that I am not well-trained in the language of philosophy. I kept reading, though, and did finish the book. One thing I will say is that this book seems to have been written in 1908. A lot of things have changed since then. As Stephen King says in his Dark Tower series, the world has moved on. I think Chesterton might have written a slightly different book, had he been alive today.