Reading with Joy — The Suicide of Thought

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Welcome to my summer book club, friends!

If you’re just joining us now, let me catch you up. This summer we’re reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and this week we’re on chapter two: “The Suicide of Thought” (dramatic, I know). This book is a collection of essays in which Chesterton, a socialist journalist, essayist, and mystery novelist at the turn of the twentieth century, explains how he came to believe in the Christian faith. It is a raucous intellectual adventure, an intellectual and spiritual autobiography which combines the style of Augustine’s Confessions with postmodern pastiche. One friend described reading the book as “doing intellectual push ups while chortling.” It will make you laugh, learn, and think.

This is how the book club works: each week you read the assigned chapter by Tuesday, I put out a podcast on said chapter, and then, the folllowing day, you engage in discussion on either my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.

You can find the book for free on Project Gutenberg or at the link below.

By G. K. Chesterton

I’m writing this week’s notes to you from my new flat in St Andrews, Scotland.

It’s been a whirl of a week for the Clarksons (kind of like this whirl of a chapter!). My mother flew back to the states on Saturday, my brother in law ordained a Deacon on the same day, Joel (brother) and I took the train with all my worldly possessions the next day, and Sarah (sister) took her final exam at Oxford. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I am both tired and very thankful. I love, love this new flat and am so excited to see what the coming year will hold. If all goes according to plan it will be the last year of my Phd… a year from now I could be Dr. Joy! Ah! Anyway, I somehow managed to still record this podcast, surrounded by packing boxes as I was. I like to think this shows my keen dedication to the literary life… or something.

I digress. Let’s dive into this week’s chapter!

Chapter Summary:

Why won’t the car of modern thought go?

If you’ve made it this far: congratulations!

You’ve slogged through the hardest chapters of Orthodoxy.

In the first chapter, Chesterton set out to tell us the story of how he arrived at believing what he does. He described this as created his own philosophy which corresponded as closely with the wild and varied world that he encountered; he tells us that in trying to create a heresy, we ended up discovering Orthodoxy. Up to this point, Chesterton has been attempting to give an account of why it is so difficult for us to even set out on that journey. In the last chapter, he described the madness of an over-dependence and trust in reason— the starting point of our journey must be an attitude of wonder which understands that it cannot understand everything. In this chapter he swings back to the defence of reason, describing how, in the modern world, we have lost the ability to use Reason in a proper and fruitful way. He attributes this to the fact that we have given up a belief in eternal values. Because of this, Chesterton argues, we no longer value the intellect for its ability to help us think our way toward the Truth, but simply for its ability to help us think at all. But valuing something for its mere function rather than its proper end eventuall leads to a damage of its actual function; we think to discover truth. To learn to use our intellects properly, then, we must first put our faith in the idea that there is truth out there to begin with.

My Three Take Aways:

  1. Virtues can become overgrown and turn into vices.

  2. The intellect is a tool meant to accomplish a specific task

  3. Limitation is the key to freedom.

Tune in next week for my favourite chapter of Orthodoxy: “The Ethics of Elfland”!

Much love and happy reading!

Happy Patreon Anniversary!


Thank you, Patrons! You keep Speaking with Joy (and Joy herself) running!

This morning Patreon informed me via email that exactly a year ago today I launched this page. Launching this page was a step of faith. I felt called to my Phd and my podcast, but I was exhausting myself doing both and trying to make enough money to live. With the support each one of you has offered, I can now throw myself fully into both. I consider all of you as being a part of my Phd journey, and as I look back on this year, I can't help but be deeply, deeply thankful... and a little surprised at how generous you all have been!

Today I did a secret podcast with my brother Joel about his new album, Story Book Soundscapes.

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This is an album of full orchestral compositions each based on a story or scene drawn from Joel's imagination. It is unique from his other albums in that it is composed with a full orchestra. I have already listened through nearly the whole album (sister privileges, you know) and I can say this without flattery or prejudice: it is a masterful work of art.

Go purchase your copy at the link below! It will become a soundtrack to your life.

If you join Patreon today you can listen to it and here one of the tracks on Joel’s new album.

Many thanks to all of you for your support!

I’ll see you all around here next week!


Joy ClarksonComment