Monday, May 29, 2006

GKC's birthday

Today we say
Happy Birthday
to our dear Uncle Gilbert!

To help you celebrate, here are two excerpts of GKC on the topic.

--Dr. Thursday

Bowing down in blind credulity, as is my custom, before mere authority and the tradition of the elders, superstitiously swallowing a story I could not test at the time by experiment or private judgment, I am firmly of opinion that I was born on the 29th of May, 1874, on Campden Hill, Kensington; and baptised according to the formularies of the Church of England in the little church of St. George opposite the large Waterworks Tower that dominated that ridge. I do not allege any significance in the relation of the two buildings; and I indignantly deny that the church was chosen because it needed the whole water-power of West London to turn me into a Christian.
Nevertheless, the great Waterworks Tower was destined to play its part in my life, as I shall narrate on a subsequent page; but that story is connected with my own experiences, whereas my birth (as I have said) is an incident which I accept, like some poor ignorant peasant, only because it has been handed down to me by oral tradition. And before we come to any of my own experiences, it will be well to devote this brief chapter to a few of the other facts of my family and environment which I hold equally precariously on mere hearsay evidence. Of course what many call hearsay evidence, or what I call human evidence, might be questioned in theory, as in the Baconian controversy or a good deal of the Higher Criticism. The story of my birth might be untrue. I might be the long-lost heir of The Holy Roman Empire, or an infant left by ruffians from Limehouse on a door-step in Kensington, to develop in later life a hideous criminal heredity. Some of the sceptical methods applied to the world's origin might be applied to my origin, and a grave and earnest enquirer come to the conclusion that I was never born at all. But I prefer to believe that common sense is something that my readers and I have in common; and that they will have patience with a dull summary of the facts.

[GKC, Autobiography CW16:21]

When people asked Bernard Shaw to attend the Stratford Tercentenary, he wrote back with I characteristic contempt: "I do not keep my own birthday, and I cannot see why I should keep Shakespeare's." I think that if Mr. Shaw had always kept his own birthday he would be better able to understand Shakespeare's birthday - and Shakespeare's poetry. ... Shaw should not talk about the fairy tales; for he does not feel them from the inside. As I have said, on all this side of historic and domestic traditions Bernard Shaw is weak and deficient. He does not approach them as fairy tales, as if he were four, but as "folklore" as if he were forty. And he makes a big mistake about them which he would never have made if he had kept his birthday and hung up his stocking, and generally kept alive inside him the firelight of a home. ... A man should be always tied to his mother's apron-strings; he should always have a hold on his childhood, and be ready at intervals to start anew from a childish standpoint. Theologically the thing is best expressed by saying "You must be born again." Secularly it is best expressed by saying "You must keep your birthday." Even if you will not be born again, at least remind yourself occasionally that you were born once.

[GKC, George Bernard Shaw CW11:440]


At 29 May, 2006 09:04, Blogger Kevin O'Brien said...

At a time when time is being stripped of its sacred quality like a Rembert Weakland cathedral, when Ascension Thursday is on a Sunday, when Memorial Day is a day of amnesia, when baseball games get longer to fit in more commercials, it is good to be reminded of how such amazing things as the birth of this amazing man, the birth of any of us sinful but surprising creatures, of how such joy broke through such confusion and breaks through still.

At 29 May, 2006 09:47, Blogger Rick Lugari said...

One thing of the things that struck me when I was reverting back to the faith, and sticks with me today is the prayers at the foot of the altar in the old missal. In particularly the part:

I will go to the altar of God.
To God, the joy of my youth.

Just reading the words ground you , stir joy in the heart, and inspire hope. (The loss of that exchange in the liturgy is truly lamentable.)

It would seem that GKC never lost sight of that importance, whereas someone like myself had to read it while in a state of thoughtful interest in order to recognize it.


Post a Comment

<< Home