Sunday, August 21, 2005

More from Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood

When a man thinks it is such a fine thing to have done right, he might almost as well have done wrong, for it shows he considers right something extra, not absolutely essential to human existence, not the life of a man (283).

An apt description of pride. MacDonald inverts many typical judgments in his books, showing how those attitudes and behaviors that we often justify or think of as less egregious can be even more destructive than the social behaviors we often judge more harshly.
Certainly one has no right to say what God is going to do with anyone till he knows it beyond a doubt [....] I mean we must take care of presumption when we measure God's plans by our theories (291).

The frequency with which we substitute our own judgments and assumptions for the will of God is one of the largest problems I see. It is so easy to think "God said" or "God wants" when what we mean is, "I think this must be what God..."

And I left the shop somewhat consoled for the pain I had given Catherine, which grieved me without making me sorry that I had occasioned it (295).

"Sorry" is one of those cheap words today, like Beonhoeffer's phrase, "cheap grace." Grieved is an interesting word choice here, implying a choice in how we think of things that is so often lacking in modern relationships.

For what I was delighted to be made sure of was that Tom at least knew that he did not know. For that is the very next step to knowing. Indeed, it may be said to be a more valuable gift than the other, being of general appliaction; for some quick people will understand many things very easily, but when they come to a thing that is beyond their present reach, will fancy they see a meaning in it, or invent one, or even--which is far worse--pronounce it nonsense; and, indeed, show themselves capable of any device for getting out of the difficulty except seeing and confessing to themselves that they are not able to understand it (297).

The thing that interests me here is MacDonald's claim that pronouncing it "nonsense" is far worse than even inventing a meaning. By this, I take him to mean that such an action can too easily become habit and make it difficult for us to ever learn from anything that is not easily accessible.

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