Chesterton, New Evangelization, and Cheese
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“In each inn the cheese was good; and in each inn it was different.”
G.K. Chesterton wrote some interesting things about cheese after a trip giving lectures around England. During his travels he lunched in several roadside inns across England that offered nothing but bread and cheese. He found in these cheeses a quality he describes as “the very soul of song.”
Chesterton saw in the cheeses two things:
1) Each cheese was local and therefore diverse, taking on the flavor of the surrounding culture.
The “noble” cheese of Wensleydale was a different happy expression of cheese than that of the cheese of Cheshire, or the cheese in Yorkshire, or the cheese in any of the inns. Chesterton believes that universal truths are best expressed through customs and civilizations when they are living, varying, and diverse. The cheese becomes exquisite because it communicates truth and beauty in a way that is in touch with reality and its local surroundings. The divine and universal idea of cheese takes on the human nature of the town and the people that labored to lovingly produce the cheese.
“Bad customs are universal and rigid, like modern militarism. Good customs are universal and varied, like native chivalry and self-defence… But a good civilization spreads over us freely like a tree, varying and yielding because it is alive. A bad civilization stands up and sticks out above us like an umbrella – artificial, mathematical in shape; not merely universal, but uniform.”