The Heart or the Head? Thoughts on a Cautionary Poem by G.K. Chesterton

Are you on vacation yet? The funny thing about vacations is that when on holiday from the world, and from the pressures of time, it’s quite easy to see all manner of things through rose colored glasses. In fact, I would go so far as to say that everything is better when one is on vacation, be it food, music, company, or conversation. Have you noticed this too? The phenomenon is what leads me to believe vacations are a foretaste of eternal life in heaven.

On this Solemnity of the  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I’ll share some verses by that jovial fellow with the big waistline, and an even bigger brain. Or perhaps it’s not his brain that is so big, but instead, it’s his heart. Yes, I believe G.K. Chesterton’s large heart is the cause of my feelings of kinship with him. For the heart, and not the mind, is the seat of all truth. For the heart is where truth resides. It is the home of the soul, built upon the foundation of faith, and not upon sight.

Not that the mind isn’t important. Perish such a thought, for the Catholic Church exalts the mind, just not at the expense of the heart. Search the world over and I daresay you will never find a parish church named for the “Immaculate Mind of Mary,” or for the “Sacred Mind of Jesus” though untold thousands are named for Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, and Our Lord’s sacred one.

For as Chesterton reminds us in the short poem below, it is infinitely better to lose our heads, than to lose our hearts and the treasure contained therein.

Fantasia
by G.K. Chesterton

The happy men that lose their heads
They find their heads in heaven
As cherub heads with cherub wings,
And cherub haloes even:
Out of the infinite evening lands
Along the sunset sea,
Leaving the purple fields behind,
The cherub wings beat down the wind
Back to the groping body and blind
As the bird back to the tree.

Whether the plumes be passion-red
For him that truly dies
By headsmen’s blade or battle-axe,
Or blue like butterflies,
For him that lost it in a lane
In April’s fits and starts,
His folly is forgiven then:
But higher, and far beyond our ken,
Is the healing of the unhappy men,
The men that lost their hearts.

Is there not pardon for the brave
And broad release above,
Who lost their heads for liberty
Or lost their hearts for love?
Or is the wise man wise indeed
Whom larger thoughts keep whole?
Who sees life equal like a chart,
Made strong to play the saner part,
And keep his head and keep his heart,
And only lose his soul.

That last is the luke-warm way. No thanks.  My buddy Blaise Pascal reminds us of the importance of our hearts. After all,

We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. The skeptics have no other object than that, and they work at it to no purpose.

My King came to give life, so we could live it abundantly, and whole heartedly.

Thanks be to God.


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