Chesterton on Nature

Another excerpt from G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. (I promise I’m not being lazy with these extended quotations, it’s just that he was such a great writer I don’t want to detract from them with my own scribblings).

“The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals.  On the evolutionary basis you may be inhumane, or you may be absurdly humane; but you cannot be human.  That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being as cruel as the tiger.  It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger.  But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws.

“If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden.  For the obstinate reminder continued to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature.  The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition:  that Nature is our mother.  Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this:  that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister.  We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.  This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.”



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4 thoughts on “Chesterton on Nature

  1. Pingback: Seeing the gardener « Spiritual Meanderings

  2. Pingback: Plus ça change… « Spiritual Meanderings

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