The British writer, G.K. Chesterton, had a tendency to forget where he was going and he frequently boarded the wrong trains. He personally recounted several occasions when he found himself in the wrong place and telegrammed his wife to ask where he was supposed to be. She would always sent the same reply: “Home.”
G.K. Chesterton had no theological training and never held a position in the church. But he was one of the most influential religious writers of the twentieth century. A confirmed Catholic, he’s best known for his mainstream religious books and his fictional portrayals of the priest-detective, Father Brown. But Chesterton’s first published works were books of poetry.
For today’s inspiration, we’re looking at a Chesterton poem that describes the euphoria of religious experience. It’s a piece titled, “The Convert.”
By G.K. Chesterton
After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead
The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: Wisdom & Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton
More nuggets for today:
On this day in 1879, F.W. Woolworth opened his first store in Utica, New York.
Woolworth was born to devout Methodist parents in nearby Rodman, New York. When he was four years old, he told his parents he wanted to become a traveling peddler when he grew up, and he frequently set up pretend stores with his brothers.
He named his first real store “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store.” The idea was that he would offer general merchandise at a discount, buy directly from manufacturers and sell at fixed prices. The store failed within three months. But he kept the sign and used it when he opened another store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. That one took off and launched one of the world’s largest store chains.
Today also marks the death of the artist, Andy Warhol, in 1987.
Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and his parents were immigrants from Slovakia. He started his career in advertising art, but quickly pivoted and became a leading figure in the “Pop Art” movement of the 1950s. For more than three decades, he was an icon of the artistic community and one of the world’s most sought-after portrait artists.
Warhol was a familiar figure on the New York celebrity scene and he lived as an openly gay man long before the arrival of the gay liberation movement. But he went to great lengths to hide the fact that he was also a devout and practicing Catholic. He regularly attended mass and the priest at the church he attended noted that he stopped by almost every day.
At his funeral, Warhol’s friend, John Richardson, described his spirituality. He said:
“Those of you who knew [Andy] in circumstances that were the antithesis of spiritual may be surprised that such a side existed. But exist it did, and it’s key to the artist’s psyche … He took considerable pride in financing his nephew’s studies for the priesthood. And he regularly helped out at a shelter serving meals to the homeless and hungry … The knowledge of this secret piety inevitably changes our perception of an artist who fooled the world into believing that his only obsessions were money, fame, glamour …”
Finally, our word of wisdom for today come to us from the great Sufi mystic, Rumi. He said:
“You were born with wings, why do you prefer to crawl through life?”
There’s a lot to be discouraged about these days. But I hope you can muster up the courage to go out there and spread your wings a little bit today. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
Download today’s episode of “A Spiritual Almanac” at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart and everywhere else you find your favorite podcasts.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.