“Chesterton used to say he was the politest man in all England: he could stand up on a bus and offer his seat to three women at the same time.”
This was my introduction to G. K. Chesterton, at least in my adult life. My brother, circa 2000, had memorized parts of “The Ballad of the White Horse” and enthusiastically recited it to us. I picked up “The Ball and the Cross” several years ago and got only a few pages in.
And then this intro, to this lovely address, given by Dale Ahlquist at a tiny college graduation in cozy New England. It cheered me up, cheered my whole life up, and filled me with a zeal to accomplish worthy things. Cheesy, but true.
Mr. Ahlquist eloquently described the sad state of our times, saying that we have “formed a crass commercial culture, based on coveting, self-indulgence, and instant gratification…Our imaginations have run wild with alternative realities” and the “loss of faith and reason [is] robbing us of our dignity and our free will…Society is falling apart…because the basic brick with which a civilization is built is crumbling, and that brick is the family.”
Cheerful, hey? Stay with me. According to Mr. Ahlquist, G. K. Chesterton has allll the answers to these problems, and they are beautiful answers.
Society may be crumbling, but it is not too late. As Mr. Ahlquist reminds us, civilization is a human invention, and “we can make or remake society according to any design…if we decide to do it.” According to Chesterton, the family will save civilization.
By transforming the world.
By passing on our culture, learning and art to the next generation.
This is where Mr. Ahlquist presents what he calls “The Chesterton Option.” It is a blueprint for a life that, while lived in the world, is lived with purpose and faithfulness. The Chesterton version of conscious culture, I like to think.
Here it is:
The Chesterton Option
- “Be faithful to the Faith.” Mr. Ahlquist urges us to live with courage, to not be afraid of telling that truth of the Incarnation, which is worth dying for, and more importantly, worth living for.
- “Take control of your own life…Free yourself from everything that would enslave you.” According to Chesterton, it is a “sign of decadence when we pay others to fight for us and others to dance for us and others to rule us.” Another Chesterton gem: “It is cheap to own a slave and cheaper to be a slave.”
Mr. Ahlquist gives practical guidelines for being faithful to the Faith and for taking control of your own life.
- Be as free not to use technology as to use it.
- Work to become your own employer.
- Buy local.
- Start your own schools.
- Join a cost sharing healthcare co-op.
- Join a local credit union.
- Give money to the poor, and “give them the dignity of being able to spend it themselves, instead of spending it for them.”
- Make your own entertainment.
- Make your own art.
- Read old books.
- Grow things, whether veggies or children.
- Share a family meal every day, and “linger long.”
- Pray as a family every day.
- Keep a period of silence every day.
- Keep the Sabbath and yourself holy.
- “Break the conventions, and keep the commandments.”
- “Look at everything as if you are seeing it for the first time.”
- “Be thankful, and think about God…and you will be happy.”
“There is no obligation on us to be richer, or busier, or more efficient, or more productive, or more progressive, or in any way worldlier or wealthier, if is does not make us happier.” – G. K. Chesterton
The Chesterton Option and My New Year’s Resolutions
For the New Year of 2018, I decided to really put into place The Chesterton Option, as much as possible.
Some aspects I have already been working on, such as making time for silence and joining a healthcare co-op.
This year, I resolve to continue those good habits, and implement more. My full list of resolutions is here for you to hold me accountable:
- work to become my own employer
- buy local
- give part of my money each month to the poor or to worthy causes
- make my own entertainment (help on this one!)
- make my own art
- read old books
- grow plants
- share a meal every day
- pray for 30 minutes every morning
- keep silence
- honor the Sabbath
And now that these resolutions are up here for the world to see, I have to keep them! I will go into more details on each of these as I go along my journeh, so stay posted. Aaaand I would LOVE any suggestions you have for how I can best implement these resolutions.
I truly believe that forming good habits is key to living the kind of life I want to live. This year, I put together a challenge for myself to implement certain habits, and I want to share it with you! Many of these habits were inspired by the Chesterton Option, but I specifically based them off of a book called “Leisure, the Basis of Culture” by Josef Pieper. Each day I worked on implementing a new habit, and made sure I really knew the value of that habit. You can check it out here.
What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do any of these ideas resonate with you, or have you already been crushing this way of life? Let me know!!
Peace and Happy New Year to all,