As I have perhaps mentioned, I am not much of a joiner and tend to avoid getting roped into groups dedicated to causes. However, I make an enthusiastic exception for the Chesterton Society since it is, in the profoundest sense of the word, a fellowship: a gathering friends united by a common love and free to be the eccentrics they are without some conformist ideology of shibboleths and ideological code words. What marks the Society in a way that is becoming very rare in our culture is a sort of intellectual and spiritual freedom. As just one example of this, we wound up having a spirited–but charitable–debate about the question of lying to Planned Parenthood over dinner. It was argument as it is supposed to be conducted by Christians and it concluded, not with mutual anathemas, but with friends parting as friends.
Beyond that was the conference itself, which was joyous, stimulating, hilarious, and very moving. It was also a relief in that the premier of Manalive went off well (meaning “people laughed and didn’t think I sucked, and everybody else in the cast was very good”). Also the talks were terrific. A highlight for me was Julian Ahlquist’s wonderfully nerdy exploration of Chesterton and Aliens in which he noodled the possibility of extraterrestrials. There was a family from our area, the Crosbys, who did a presentation on the Titanic and recitation of “Lepanto” that was fantastic. Also, There was also a great talk about the place of nightmare in Chesterton’s fiction that was particularly apropos not only The Man Who Was Thursday (subtitled “A Nightmare”) but Manalive (since Innocent Smith is profoundly a man who has faced and faced down a nightmare of meaninglessness and discovered joy).
Oh, and the closing banquet on Saturday, in which we make our own entertainment, was–as ever–a joy. It concluded with the traditional award of the Cup of Inconvenience to the Chesterton who had turned the most inconvenience into adventure and went to a woman who had undergone chemo just to get to the conference. It made you laugh and cry at the sheer joyous valor of her and her husband. How I love that crowd!
Kevin, by the way, will be in St. Louis Sunday August 26th at 6 PM playing Hilaire Belloc as he talks on The Great Heresies. Register here if you want to see him. He’s a very gifted actor.