We Ought to Handle it Ourselves

One of the things you’ve heard me quote again and again over the years is G.K. Chesterton’s adage: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” In his characteristically provocative and opaque way, Chesterton tells us that the really valuable stuff of life (such as work, leisure, birthing and rearing children, etc.) is something we ought to handle ourselves, even if it won’t yield perfect results. It’s that important.

A true amateur – as understood in its literal sense of a person who does something “for the love” of it – is still a rare breed it seems. The word is often hurled as a pejorative to disparage the work of the non-specialist, but in Chesterton’s view, the things that are truly important in life – the things “worth doing” – are simply too sacred to entrust to another. If I could wish anything for you boys, it would be that you would grow up to be men who are impelled by this sense of the sacredness of life.

Much of life is a twilight walk in the forest. We wander and stumble, groping about for something that might point our way. But it isn’t until we reach the edge of the trees that we are able to stand in the luminous clearing. The only way there is through, and it is only by regular engagement with the real stuff of life that we will discover the clearing of personal agency – the ability to act effectively toward specific ends.

–Joshua A. Klein, excerpt from “Ready Hands: A Letter to My Sons,” in Issue Ten


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