"Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world ... If we could only get round in front!"
~ The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton ~
I listened to The Man Who Was Thursday over at Librivox just recently. It's one of the strangest surreal books you may read, but at the bottom (or the back) is that deep, wise, childlike humor Chesterton was given that make his works a delight.
This idea that we only see the back of things intrigues me. It is a theme of the Great Story, and it shows up again and again.
Slavery ending in songs of joy beside the sea.
A smelly little shepherd who is actually a warrior poet, chosen as king.
Wandering strangers who eat your food - divine messengers.
And then, the main character shows up unexpected and in disguise. People hoping for rescue were disappointed, He claimed to be God, visiting as a lowly man the ones he made, bringing life to their sick and hope to prisoners... But all he said was so preposterously good, it could not be true.
He didn't even look like God! How were we to know?
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
We expect the Lion to eat us, not invite us to a feast.
Like Syme, it seems the world is turned upside down, and anarchist will rule the world. Who is a friend? Is anyone real and substantial? How can we escape the never-tiring, enigmatic man called Sunday? Or how can we catch him and find who he is?
Like Orual in Till We Have Face, I go through most of life complaining, martyr-like, overwhelmed with the sorrows and horrors of the world and my own ugliness, seeking answers and the face of the Lover who eludes me in a dance of mystery.
Like Sam's moment of horror in The Return of the King, when Frodo declares the Ring is his, and Gollum wrestles him in the cracks of Mount Doom - Everything has gone wrong, and The End of All Things has come.
But then like Sam, suddenly we we wake up in surprise, and find everything sad has come untrue.