Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hold More Strongly By Its Roots

A reader pointed out to me this quote from Chesterton:
Perhaps we might call the two antagonistic philosophies the philosophy of The Tree and the philosophy of The Cloud. I mean that a tree goes on growing, and therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes surrounding something unchangeable. The innermost rings of the tree are still the same as when it was a sapling; they have ceased to be seen, but they have not ceased to be central. When the tree grows a branch a top, it does not break away from the roots at the bottom; on the contrary, it needs to hold more strongly by its roots the higher it rises with its branches. That is the true image of the vigorous and healthy progress of man, a city or a whole species.

But when the evolutionists I speak of talk to us about change, they do not mean that. They do not mean something that produces external changes from a permanent and organic centre, like a tree; they mean something that changes completely and entirely in every part, at every minute, like a cloud. There is no core of a cloud; there is no head or tail that cannot turn into something else; it not only changes, but it is itself only a prolonged change. While Hamlet and Polonius stood looking at the cloud, it will be remembered that, in those few minutes, the prince could persuade the courtier that the cloud had a hump like a camel, that it was a weasel, and that it was a whale. That is the cosmos as understood by these cosmic philosophers; the cosmos is a cloud. It changes in every part; nor is one part more permanent or even more essential than the other. For that matter, of course, the cosmic philosophers change as much as their cosmic cloud

Now, if this merely cloudy and boneless development be adopted as a philosophy, then there can be no place for the past and no possibility of a complete culture. Anything may be here today and gone tomorrow; even tomorrow. But I do not accept that everlasting evolution, which merely means everlasting chaos. As I only accept the organic and orderly development of a thing according to its own design and nature, there is for me such a thing as a human culture that is reasonably complete. Only the modern, advanced, progressive, scientific culture is unreasonably incomplete.

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