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Chesterton: “In trying to be 10 min. before the truth I found myself 1800 years behind it.”

Chesterton is writing a book about orthodoxy, and begins with a story (which he intended to make a fiction work, but got too lazy or too busy to write) about a man who set out to discover the new world, and – through a mistake in calculations – “discovered” England. He (very wittily!) applies this story to his own spiritual journey and continues:

“For if this book is a joke, it is a joke against me. I am the man who, with the utmost daring, discovered what had been discovered before. If there is an element of farce in what follows, the farce is at my own expense; for this book explains how I fancied I was the first to set foot in Brighton and then found I was the last. . . . I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the late nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them, I tried to be some 10 minutes in advance of the truth. And I found I was 1,800 years behind it. . . . It may be, heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion. . . .I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered it was orthodoxy.”
[from “Introduction in Defense of Everything Else,” Orthodoxy. G.K. Chesterton, 1908)



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