Perception Attentive and Tremendous Trifles

In light of the concept and reality of “tremendous trifles” — as resonantly presented (and variously illustrated) by G.K. Chesterton himself — we are now encouraged to add one of Hilaire Belloc’s own evocative essays for our consideration. Belloc’s presentation of nature and silence and a grateful sense of benediction is cumulatively alluring and is contemplatively entitled “The Place Apart.” We hope thereby to impart a fortifying conviction that Belloc’s own gradually unfolding experience — alone in nature, and afoot — also helps to convey Chesterton’s own distinctive expressions of a deeper meaning and radiating purpose to be found and nourished by the refreshing little things of moment to man — such as the clear flow of a brook and the quiet beauty of a newly discovered and well-shielded valley.

Moreover, in the early 1980s, the learned Father John Hardon, S.J. once memorably discussed with me Chesterton’s profound paradoxical concept of “tremendous trifles.” He then made me much more aware of just how one’s own often unrecognized deeper presuppositions — one’s logical premises and fundamental criteria and standards of judgment — affect the alertness and mental focus of one’s own perceptions: to include one’s contemplatively receptive and refreshingly grateful perceptions. We also then spoke about Chesterton’s exemplary presentation of the acute perceptiveness invariably shown by Chesterton’s own Father Brown in the Father Brown Mystery Stories, which are so much more than “detective stories.” For, Father Brown, from his long experience in the interior forum in Sacramental Confession, had learned so much about human nature, to include its ruses and self-deceptions and crafty forms of evasion. And he also thereby learned to notice attentively the little things of significance in our life and thus the lowly persons whom others overlooked in the hurry and insensitive indifference of modern civilization.

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