Monday, August 04, 2008

Geir Hasnes: The Flag of the World/Loyalty to Life

Yesterday, I received a package in the mail which consisted of a mysterious CD and some loose papers which appeared to be a PowerPoint presentation. I was told:
...I am compelled to...send...the presentation by our favorite Norwegian bibliographer. I will post that CD to you...You'll understand after you've listened, and further explanation will only lessen its impact for you, so 'nuff said.
So, yesterday, I listened.

Luckily, I had had further warning to have tissue close by.

Now, since Geir told us in the talk that he watches the blogs to find out what people have to say about him, I shall have to say a few things about this talk.

1. Geir has a funny accent. I think it is because he is actually Norweigan. Like from that country, not just his nationality. But I could be wrong.

2. Geir is a cryer. He said it, I didn't.

3. Geir is funny. He has a Chestertonian way of interspersing humor into a very serious story, helping to lighten the load for those listening intently.

4. Geir made two cardinal joke-telling errors, in that he failed to give out the punch line of two jokes.
a. How many Chestertonians does it take to change a lightbulb? How will I ever know now?

b. What did the blonde tell the Chestertonian? I can't even imagine that one.
So, after this kind of build up, you are probably wondering, what in the world was Geir's talk about?

Geir had a chapter in Orthodoxy to talk about, the Flag of the World chapter. But, as he told us in his talk, he wasn't going to talk about that, because everyone in the room should either have already read that chapter, or they haven't, in which case they've already made up their mind not to read it and were just at the conference to party.

But, Hasnes did bring up some great points about the chapter: to talk about Chesterton, you must:
1. Understand what Chesterton said.

2. Think of some modern situations that compare to the situations that Chesterton talked about, and

3. Apply Chesterton's way of thinking to the newer problems; and

4. Be sure to use humor.
So, in that light, Hasnes wanted to apply the idea of abortion to Chesterton's thinking, using his own personal situation as an example.

And what ensued was a very personalized story about Hasnes' life, his mother's choice to bear a child even after being violated, and the result being a life worth living.

After thinking about the talk, I realized that Hasnes was really not talking about himself. He was talking about his mother. His mother is the one who was brave, noble, life-giving, self-sacrificing, courageous, scared, poor, etc. His mother is the hero of the story, but, like many heros, she was also a tragic hero, not realizing her own gift, her own huge sacrifice she gave to the world.

Like many of us, our choices seem so personal, so quiet, so unknown. We may believe that the sacrifice we make or made has no consequence to our lives, and maybe it doesn't: but maybe it makes a huge difference to the world. And maybe we'll never know that.

Geir is grateful for the life he was given, the life he's been able to live because of his mother's great love. His story was touching and moving, because he was there to tell it.

At the end, I'm sure he had the whole audience in tears as he recited Chesterton's famous poem, By the Babe Unborn:
"By the Babe Unborn"
by G.K. Chesterton
If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.

Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.


  1. Thanks for blogging! However, while I appreciate that anyone at all listens to the talk after the event and even blog about it, I also have to add some small details to your description.

    First, one main point is that the mother you speak of is my biological mother who chose to give away her child directly after birth as she couldn't give the child a proper upbringing. I am all for adoption instead of abortion as the solution to a highly complicated situation for a single mother-to-be.

    Secondly, I didn't reveal much of chapter 5 not because of any alleged disinterest among those in the audience who hadn't still read the chapter, but because I didn't want to spoil the future reading for anyone. One should know as little as possible about a book when delving into it.

    Thirdly, I actually used Chesterton's great insight about Optimists and Pessimists in chapter 5 to show how these argue for abortion.

    And fourthly, it was the other way, that I couldn't say what the Chestertonian said to the blonde. Maybe he will reveal it himself? I don't know, and I of course don't know the answer about the lightbulbs either. It would probably take a whole conference of chestertonians and at the end the lightbulb would still not have been switched. Maybe they would lit candles instead?

  2. My dear Geir! the answer is one, of course, because he would know this:

    Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good - "

    which of course is in Heretics CW1:46. (Note I only used AMBER to get the page, I know this one all too well, having been knocked down before...)

    Of course, you and I (like that gray-clad monk) would probably get knocked down for doing this, but the answer would still be one.

    I am not going to speculate (even with AMBER) about the one on blondes.

    --Dr. Thursday

  3. Great, Dr. Thursday, that was exactly what I had in mind! And therefore I thought that the lightbulb would not be switched because the chestertonians would wander off in endless meanderings about all the interesting philosophical questions which would arise as the lightbulb had gone dark!

    Now to see whether anyone will find out about the blonde!

  4. If anyone is in doubt the blonde did not tell the Chestertonian to make his mind up, but to mind her makeup.

  5. I think we easily would solve it all by spreading this urgent Clerihew.

    Dear fans of Chesterton!
    Next time you meet a blonde,
    please ask with little fuzz:
    What did you tell us?


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