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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What's in a name (or at least this name)?

Gower Street is a street in London near the campus of the University of London. I have a visual theme in mind for the blog, using graphics from London Tube maps. (It's not a Tube station, but I thought the graphics would be fun.) But that is some way off; I am still quite the neophyte here.

Gower Street is also a reference to a line from G. K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy, in which he writes


Nothing can save [the madman] but a blind hunger for
normality, like that of a beast. A man cannot think himself out of mental evil;
for it is actually the organ of thought that has become diseased, ungovernable,
and, as it were, independent. He can only be saved by will or faith. The moment
his mere reason moves, it moves in the old circular rut; he will go round and
round his logical circle, just as a man in a third-class carriage on the Inner
Circle will go round and round the Inner Circle unless he performs the
voluntary, vigorous, and mystical act of getting out at Gower Street.
I think this quote nicely summarizes not only the logical difficulties of the madman, but also some of our own difficulties. I used to like what Chesterton says here because I thought it was true (to some extent) of faith, and I still do. But I have come to appreciate it in a different way, too, because so many contemporary interactions with other perspectives -- in faith, politics, or wherever we disagree with someone else -- seem mocking and dismissive. With the internet, with "narrowcasting" in television and radio, we seem to hear more and more reflections of what we already believe, and work ourselves into a lather at others who disagree; we become trapped in our own "Inner Circles". And this is madness.

Alongside this tendency and abetting it is the propensity to see issues only in black and white polarities, when it seems that more nuance and complexity are in order. Some people suggest that this happens a lot during times of war, but I wonder if we might find ourselves in wars (metaphorical and otherwise) because we are so polarized in the first place.

Perhaps, in faith, I/we might exit this "Inner Circle" of ideology-hardened lines in the sand and instead seek to discern the truth. I realize it is quite a hope, probably realized much more eschatologically than in the present. But I think it's a worthwhile goal.

So, I want to take the opportunity that this blog affords to work out some of my own musings about theology, and doings in the church and world. I want to be charitable in all my interactions (especially my disagreements). I probably won't have many answers to anything; often I feel like I am just trying to get the question right. No doubt you -- whoever you are -- will have some thoughtful responses from time to time.

I don't know that I have any grand plan for this blog beyond this: that it might be a modest, mystical exercise (of will or faith, or both) in "getting out at Gower Street."

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