When We Suddenly Look Up and Realize that Reality is Wondrous

My Tigana review shall be coming shortly, and before it does shall come a review of G.K. Chesterton’s “The Coloured Lands”. To shed light on that review, I am featuring here an excerpt from Chesterton’s essay “The Artistic Side,” in which he ruminates on the startling beauty of colors, and what that might mean. I think what he says is important not just in the genres of fantasy and fiction, but for the way we look at life in general.

Source: “Lecture 75: The Coloured Lands” by Dale Ahlquist for The American Chesterton Society

“I know no better exercise in that art of wonder, which is the life of man and the beginning of the praise of God, than to travel in a train through a long dark almost uninterrupted tunnel: until the traveller has grown almost accustomed to dusk and a dead blank background of brick. At last, after long stretches and at long intervals, the wall will suddenly break in two, and give a glowing glimpse of the land of the living. It may be a chasm of daylight showing a bright and busy street. It may be a similar flash of light on a long lonely road of poplars, with a solitary human figure plodding across the vast countryside. I know not which of the two gives a more startling stab of human vitality. Sometimes the grey facade is broken by the lighted windows of a house, almost overhanging the railway-line; and for an instant we look deep into a domestic interior; chamber within chamber of a glowing and coloured human home. That is the way in which objects ought to be seen; separate; illuminated; and above all, contrasted against blank night or bare walls; as indeed these living creations do stand eternally contrasted with the colourless chaos out of which they came. Travelling in this fashion, the other day, I was continually haunted, and almost tormented, with an impression that I could not disentangle; nor am I at all confident that I can disentangle it here.

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