Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Running After One's Hat for 33 Years and Counting

It was (I think) in the spring of 1973 that I was browsing through The Antiquariam used book store in the Old Market section of downtown Omaha and discovered a somewhat battered, orangish copy of a life-changing book. I had already experienced a few such momentous encounters with books: Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov before my conversion to Christianity and Henry Ironside's Commentary on Ephesians, C.S Lewis' Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, and Francis Schaeffer's The Church at the End of the 20th Century afterwards.

But this one was unique in several points. First of all, the book introduced me to a writer who was remarkably talented in many genres -- this one book itself contained the writer's skill in poetry, essays, journalistic columns, literary criticism, and short stories. Second, there was an especially arresting quality about the writer's perspective. He looked at the same things others did but from a different angle, one that illuminated and made memorable the truth of the thing. Third, this writer was a master wordsmith who used striking verbs and adjectives in a style that emphasized the paradoxical yet produced an analysis that was clear as glass.

And fourth, he was absolutely delightful to read! Fascinating, provocative, convincing -- and funny! Even when he was making the most serious of moral exhortations, he was able to do so with mirth, with wit and with a charming confidence.

The book was a marvelous collection of this incomparable writer's work entitled The Man Who Was Chesterton and it was truly destined to change my life by introducing me to a writer that would become a life-long inspiration and friend.

But before I became acquainted with The Man Who Was Thursday, Manalive, Lepanto, Orthodoxy, Father Brown, Heretics, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Thing, the various collection of essays, and so on, I was first astounded and drawn in by G.K. Chesterton through reading just one enchanting essay while standing in the dark book stall of The Antiquarium. That essay was the reason I bought the book -- and that book was the reason I began what was to be decades of enjoyment (even amid the occasional disagreements) with G.K. Chesterton.

And, if you're interested, that very essay ("On Running After One's Hat") can be read on-line right here. May it stimulate and delight you like it did me those many years ago and, if you're not already a fan, I hope it encourages you to pursue the rest of the engaging blessings G.K. Chesterton has in store.