One of UltraMan Paul Ammann's web pages has a wonderful quotation about amateurism attributed to British writer G. K. Chesterton:

The word amateur has come by the thousand oddities of language to convey an idea of tepidity; whereas the word itself has the meaning of passion. Nor is this peculiarity confined to the mere form of the word; the actual characteristic of these nameless dilettanti is a genuine fire and reality. A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.

That led me in turn to Chesterton's cranky-funny 1910 book What's Wrong with the World, where in Part Four, Section XIV the author rhapsodizes about the vital role of a mother (then, and perhaps still) in raising a child:

There was a time when you and I and all of us were all very close to God; so that even now the color of a pebble (or a paint), the smell of a flower (or a firework), comes to our hearts with a kind of authority and certainty; as if they were fragments of a muddled message, or features of a forgotten face. To pour that fiery simplicity upon the whole of life is the only real aim of education; and closest to the child comes the woman --- she understands. To say what she understands is beyond me; save only this, that it is not a solemnity. Rather it is a towering levity, an uproarious amateurishness of the universe, such as we felt when we were little, and would as soon sing as garden, as soon paint as run. To smatter the tongues of men and angels, to dabble in the dreadful sciences, to juggle with pillars and pyramids and toss up the planets like balls, this is that inner audacity and indifference which the human soul, like a conjurer catching oranges, must keep up forever. This is that insanely frivolous thing we call sanity. ...

At least, I think Chesterton is waxing lyric about early childhood education --- but perhaps I'm confused, and in any event it doesn't matter. The passage concludes with the resounding Motto of the True Amateur, who does what s/he does out of pure love for the act itself: "... if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

(see also For Themselves (8 Jun 2003), ... )

TopicLiterature - TopicLife - 2004-07-12

(correlates: BirdBrains, RedundancyRedundancy, OnGrace, ...)