It is probably true for most of us that G.K. Chesterton is more quotable than readable. Chesterton -- the rotund, cigar smoking, prolific, and witty Englishman -- was a master of the quip, but his prose requires close reading. His quips range from the trivial ("Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before" ) to the humorous ("It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged") to the profound ("The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man"). Well, there is really no end to it. His books are full of such profundities and hilarities but, as I mentioned, require some patience.
Reading through a series of his quotes, one stood out to me, perhaps because I find myself constantly returning to its theme in writing and thinking. He said (in one of his many "two ways" quotes): "There are two ways to get home; and one of them is to stay there." For one thing, it reminded me of the lines from T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding, one of his Four Quartets:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Home -- the place I started from -- foreshadows the place where by God's grace I'll end up: Heaven. When we leave home, after all the exploring, all the trying different ideas and experiences, we often end up back where we started from (sometimes geographically, more often spiritually). For some, that might be a disturbing thought. Not for me. Home is where I learned about unconditional love (even when I failed courses or threw rocks through the neighbor's window). Home is where I experienced the freedom offered by boundaries; having to play in the backyard, for example, yielded greater creativity (did you know clotheslines make good zip lines?). Home was a place of unbridled imaginative play and unrelenting, wonderful, work. Isn't that what I want in Heaven?
I imagined just such a place in something I wrote several years ago (The Dream of Home, available in the sidebar), a portion of which I offer here:
As for me, I’ll keep returning, no doubt, to that childhood home, the cookie-cutter house, to my youngish mother making biscuits in the kitchen, the old photos, Grandpa’s clock, and the door to my room, which I dream I’ll open one day not on a nameless void but on something like the surreal scene of. . .
Bob Dylan sipping coffee served by Mother Theresa in a diner run by Leroy Williams, the kindly janitor in my elementary school, while Flossie, the buxom black lady that used to do my Momma’s ironing belts out a Mahalia Jackson tune that segued into “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” Long about twilight, we’ll all go out and play a game or two or three of Capture the Flag (and for once, I’ll get it) until, dog tired, we go home for dinner and reruns of Howdy-Doody, Astro-Boy and then play music until the crack of dawn. It’s all that is good and true, only more, much more real. Well, that’s just my dream of Home.
You really can go home, you know. I hope we all get there.
You really can go home.
If you had a good home, then next time you consider that place, imagine the best things you found there somehow making their way to a reconstructed and heavenly earth, a very physical, earthy Heaven (where our feet rest on dirt, not clouds). But if you had a rough home, remember the one you hoped for, perhaps a negation of what you endured, and then rest in the knowledge and hope of a curse undone in a heavenly home.