Common Sense 101: The Intoxication of Existence

Before you read the below poem, written by Mr. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, try first to picture the person speaking and the environment in which that person is in. Create in your mind a baby, lying in a dark womb, trying to imagine a world of blue skies and green grassy hills. To this tiny person, what we call the commonplace and everyday can only be imagined as a dream. The baby believes that if only he/she (whichever gender came to your mind) could attain it, if they could see the world and be a part of it, their gratitude would be never-ending.

By The Babe Unborn
G. K. Chesterton

If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie: dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.

Let storm-clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within that world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.

After reading this I was…convicted. Not just by the words of the poem, but by what Chesterton said in explanation of those words. “A literary man who cannot see that a baby is marvelous could not see that anything was marvelous. He has certainly no earthy logical reason for regarding a movie vamp as marvelous. The movie vamp is only what happens to the baby when it goes wrong.”

I have to admit that I have never been one to oooh and aaah over babies. Actually, for years my natural inclination was to stay as far away from them as possible. A child’s cry could send me running for the door as soon as those high-pitched octaves reached my ears, and I could never quite understand their constant motion, never-ending talk, and silly antics. That’s because I had lost sight of my own sense of childhood, and didn’t remember what it was like to be a child, in a constant state of discovery and wonder.

Babies remind us to be in awe of the world. We should never stop being in awe of babies, because as Chesterton explains, each time a child is born it is as if a whole new world has been created. The world is being seen as if for the first time by a new soul as if it were the first day of creation; inside that little head, there is a new system of stars, new grass, new paths to follow, a new sea.

We don’t recognize a baby as marvelous quite simply because we refuse to see basic obvious things. It is the obvious things that are never seen; the things we have been viewing all along without really seeing them. The wonders of this world are in every green blade of grass, and every lap of water as it pounds against the shore. All of these things were created to be drank in and cause the viewer to be intoxicated by the magnitude of existence.

I had to ask forgiveness for my own lack of awe. The marvelousness that is a baby is something that the world seems to have taken for granted, and I find myself truly thankful that my eyes and ears are now open to the giggles and shrieks of delight that come from the discovery of new worlds.