Orthodoxy HTML version

7. The Eternal Revolution
The following propositions have been urged: First, that some faith in our life is
required even to improve it; second, that some dissatisfaction with things as they
are is necessary even in order to be satisfied; third, that to have this necessary
content and necessary discontent it is not sufficient to have the obvious
equilibrium of the Stoic. For mere resignation has neither the gigantic levity of
pleasure nor the superb intolerance of pain. There is a vital objection to the
advice merely to grin and bear it. The objection is that if you merely bear it, you
do not grin. Greek heroes do not grin: but gargoyles do--because they are
Christian. And when a Christian is pleased, he is (in the most exact sense)
frightfully pleased; his pleasure is frightful. Christ prophesied the whole of Gothic
architecture in that hour when nervous and respectable people (such people as
now object to barrel organs) objected to the shouting of the gutter-snipes of
Jerusalem. He said, "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out." Under
the impulse of His spirit arose like a clamorous chorus the facades of the
mediaeval cathedrals, thronged with shouting faces and open mouths. The
prophecy has fulfilled itself: the very stones cry out.
If these things be conceded, though only for argument, we may take up where
we left it the thread of the thought of the natural man, called by the Scotch (with
regrettable familiarity), "The Old Man." We can ask the next question so
obviously in front of us. Some satisfaction is needed even to make things better.
But what do we mean by making things better? Most modern talk on this matter
is a mere argument in a circle--that circle which we have already made the
symbol of madness and of mere rationalism. Evolution is only good if it produces
good; good is only good if it helps evolution. The elephant stands on the tortoise,
and the tortoise on the elephant.
Obviously, it will not do to take our ideal from the principle in nature; for the
simple reason that (except for some human or divine theory), there is no principle
in nature. For instance, the cheap anti-democrat of to-day will tell you solemnly
that there is no equality in nature. He is right, but he does not see the logical
addendum. There is no equality in nature; also there is no inequality in nature.
Inequality, as much as equality, implies a standard of value. To read aristocracy
into the anarchy of animals is just as sentimental as to read democracy into it.
Both aristocracy and democracy are human ideals: the one saying that all men
are valuable, the other that some men are more valuable. But nature does not
say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the
subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We
think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular
philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a
German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all.
He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first. Or he might