G.K. Chesterton: on decadence

There comes an hour in the afternoon when the child is tired of “pretending”, when he is weary of being a robber or red Indian.  It is then when he torments the cat.  There comes a time in the routine of an ordered civilization when man is tired of playing at mythology and pretending that the tree is a maiden or that the moon made love to a man.  The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug taking and dram drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose.  Men seek stranger sins and more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded senses.  They seek after mad oriental religions for the same reason.  They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the priests of Baal.  They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.

– GK Chesterton


Progress, by Chesterton

Nobody has any business to use the word “progress” unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almost say that nobody can be progressive without being infallible — at any rate, without believing in some infallibility. For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. . . . I do not, therefore, say that the word “progress” is unmeaning; I say it is unmeaning without the previous definition of a moral doctrine, and that it can only be applied to groups of persons who hold that doctrine in common. Progress is not an illegitimate word, but it is logically evident that it is illegitimate for us. It is a sacred word, a word which could only rightly be used by rigid believers and in the ages of faith.