G.K. Chesteron, the bespectacled genius of the twentieth century, once wrote that he was a “child of the level” despite being 6’4” and weighing over 300 pounds.
This phrase found in one of his more obscure short essays from Tremendous Trifles reverberated through my soul the first time I read it and has been seared into my mind ever sense. I resolved that day that, I too, would be a “child of the level”.
In Trifles, we are introduced to two young boys, Peter and Paul, who encounter a fairy, disguised as a milkman, able to grant wishes.
Peter “had long wished to be a giant, that he might stride across continents and oceans and visit Niagara or the Himalayas in an afternoon dinner stroll.” while Paul wished to be a “pigmy half inch high”. Their wishes were immediately granted.
At first blush Paul seems to be lagging behind in frontal lobe development. Why would anyone choose to be a half-inch pigmy versus a giant? Upon further reading though, we learn that maybe Paul is more put together than originally surmised.
Peter, the giant, comes the Himalayas and realizes that they are “quite small and silly looking” along with everything else he encounters and explores. As a giant, the world is an uninteresting place.
Paul on the other hand, once transformed into the pygmy, realizes that the garden he was standing in suddenly becomes:
… an immense plain, covered with a tall green jungle and above which, at intervals, rose strange trees each with a head like the sun in symbolic pictures, with gigantic rays of silver and a huge heart of gold … He set out on his adventures across that colored plain; and he has not come to the end of it yet.
As a pygmy, Paul realizes the world is an extraordinary place, not only at the Himalayas or Niagara Falls, but right where he was standing.
Chesterton goes on to describe the “child of the level”:
“It is from the valley that things look large; it is from the level that things look high; I am a child of the level … I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.”
I aspire to be a “child of the level” because I crave to live a life of wide-eyed wonder and fascination within the magical world that my Creator has intricately made with his artisan hands.
Let us resolve to find the marvels and adventures in our daily lives. Let us resolve to live with an awareness of the great Narrative in which we are living. Let us resolve to never starve from want of wonder.
Let us resolve to be children of the level.