G.K. Chesterton once compared his own intellectual development to the voyage of an English yachtsman "who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas." The yachtsman of his story "landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton."
Those who manage to pass through intellectual adolescence all follow a journey that is somewhat like that. They are taught some simple truths as children, only to discover as teenagers or young adults that those truths were far too simple and that they themselves were embarrassingly simple to have accepted them. They strike off on their own, leaving the comfortable mental world of their childhood to find a wider and stranger world of ideas. They may experience this world as disturbing or as liberating, but in any event it is more exciting.
If they are fortunate, however, they may come to rediscover for themselves the truths they were taught as children. They may return home, as T.S. Eliot put it, and know it for the first time. If so, they may see that, although they first learned these truths as simple children, neither the truths themselves nor the people who taught them were quite as simple as they supposed.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Another good excerpt from Modern Physics and Ancient Faith: