This imitation of G.K. Chesterton concludes my mini-series of imitations. Those poor souls who are avid readers of my posts know that I have also put up imitations of Rudyard Kipling and Hilaire Belloc. Those fortunate souls who are experiencing my writing for the first, and maybe the last, can find those imitations here and here. This, of G.K. Chesterton, I believe is my finest work, but overall, imitating has proven to be a grand exercise of my prose skill, taking me to places I did not know I could go. This especially occurred in the Kipling edition. I must give the brief disclaimer that all the events in these imitations are true to a degree. The janitor in the following does exist. Do feel free to imitate this, but above all, make every day Christmas.
The more a modern American student progresses in his studies, the further away he gets from common sense. The closer he gets to the specific knowledge of academics and astronauts, the further away he moves from the common truth known by gardeners and garbage men. The judge may hold the mallet in his right hand and the Law in his left; the common juryman holds his keys in his right and the Home in his left. He has the keys to the kingdom of his home; he has the keys to the kingdom of his family; he has the keys to the kingdom of common humanity. Some may even say he has the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It might be truly stated that the whole heavenly sense of a matter is summed up in the general truths of gardeners and garbage men—the gardener sees the beginning of a matter; the garbage man the end. But the modern notion is that because the gardener does not know the science behind his gardening, that the gardener really knows very little about gardening; that the garbage man is unfamiliar with the sociological aspects of modern dumps, he truly knows nothing of the reality of taking out the garbage. But it may be that the less science and sociology a man knows, the better he can know a thing. The botanist may barge in on the gardener planting tulips or turnips; he may proclaim some scientific fact about the tulip and give a sociological panegyric on the turnip; he will almost certainly fail to realize that a tulip is a colorful mitre on a green stick and the turnip a court jester—each shouting philosophical truths as they shoot up from the ground.
The truth is that a tulip is not meant to be studied as much as it is to be wondered at. It is the cold botanist who has facts before faith who cannot see that faith must precede facts. The common gardener knows enough to plant the seed; he may wonder enough at the cycle of plant life to buy the botanist’s book; but he will never be so ignorant—and might I say arrogant—to leave off wondering where the first seed came from. He is not so interested in answering the question of whether the seed or the tulip came first. He is amused that either came at all. And thus it is with nearly every facet of life, that the more a man knows a thing, the easier it is for him to explain away its existence. And the more we begin explaining away the existence of tulips and turnips, the easier it becomes to explain away the elk and the elephant—the easier it becomes to explain away the monkey and the man. The fault of the modern is not that he seeks answers; the fault of the modern is that he is content with the answers he does find; the fault of the modern is that he lives in perpetual discontent.
We hopeless moderns have placed so much hope in science and sociology that we’ve even explained away hope—we’ve socialized it, if you will. Like every other word, we’ve redefined hope to mean not placing trust in something unseen but in something seen. It may be said that the rhetoric of the modern is distrustful of that which he cannot see. And to live in distrust of what one cannot see is that same as to live, not just without hope but in disdain of hope. It is to live for the physical and not the spiritual; it is to live for the present and not eternity; it is, in short, to live for turnips and not court jesters.
It happened one day as I was sitting at my desk that the new janitor arrived to collect my trash. It must here be noted that the common notion that janitors make up the lower end of society is both false and contradictory. A modern will preach that money is not important and then berate the janitor for not making money; he will preach that cleanliness is not next to godliness but is godliness, and then tell the janitor to envy his boss—to stop making things clean and instead make them dirty. But the truth is janitors are faeries among us, waving their wands and making all things clean. If all janitors took the advice of sociologists and scientists, the trashcans would never be taken out; more importantly, their intellectual trash would never be taken out. Instead of telling the janitor to stop cleaning, we ought to applaud the fact that he is the one soul among us who actually does clean. For the janitor is not just a man who cleans the floors and takes out the trash; he is a great buttress to truth. He may know little about the demographics of socioeconomic class or the science of his cleaning solution; he does know that when a thing is dirty, it ought to be cleaned.
And this is perhaps why janitors are often happier men than academics. For as the janitor ambled into my office to take out the trash, I could not help but notice the smile on his face as he asked me how I was doing. I answered and then returned the question, receiving his common reply:
“Every day is Christmas.”
Christmas may be last the defense to a hopeless world. It may be more like a modern to proclaim that everyday is Halloween; it may be that a postmodern Christmas is the most depressing day of the year. But one thing that will never escape the common man—of which I associate my janitor—is the fundamental meaning behind Christmas. For Christmas signifies the dawn; it signifies new life and the joy of birth; it signifies the invasion of the King in the guise of a carpenter; it signifies, in this, the whole heavenly sense of common tasks like carpentry or cleaning. Christmas, one might say, is that one day of our morbid modern world which still holds on to the ideal that all men are created equal. It is the day when Scrooges buy turkeys for their clerks; when Tiny Tims become great moralists and philosophers; when pessimists can be optimists and janitors, mayors. It is, in short, the day the world was flipped upside down. It is the claim that a God became a child, that God, in effect, chose to wonder. It cannot be explained away but is itself a thing only to be wondered at. And the whole modern world lives from day to day in this denial. For the botanist to say he comprehends the tulip is the philosopher saying he comprehends the incarnation. It is precisely the philosophers and scientists who make such claims; janitors do not. And in this it may be said that philosophers cannot comprehend the incarnation because it makes no sense and janitors do comprehend the incarnation because it makes no sense. It may be said that modern philosophers cannot believe even what they see and that janitors believe in the unseen because of what they see. It may even be said that janitors alone can wonder, that janitors, consequently, are the true optimists among us. And in my pessimistic modern ways, I asked my janitor that if every day was Christmas, what day was Christmas
“Why,” he answered with a smile. “It’s Christmas.”
Sam Snow, theficklefarce.com
Written by the dreadful way of the computer keyboard,
Some day in October, 2014
Painting: “The Custodian,”
By Harry Rutherford,
Oil on canvas, 1947