A couple hours drive outside of Jackson, Mississippi, the Windsor ruins are all that remains of an antebellum home that survived the Civil War only to catch fire in 1890. The fire destroyed the original floor plans, photographs of the house, every brick baked and laid by the injustice of slavery. Even the original name of the plantation home is forgotten; Windsor refers to the sound of the wind passing through the trees and the pillars left to hold up the sky. The only record of the mansion’s appearance is a drawing by a Union officer, sketched while encamped on the grounds.
The downstairs bathroom was the most unique room in our home. Its walls were decoupaged with pages of poetry and fiction by the previous owner. I showed it off whenever friends came to visit—it’s even where my bio pic was taken. Then, the day before leaving for my first MFA residency, it flooded. We had gone to the water park and returned to discover my son had left the upstairs bathroom sink running with the drain plugged. The walls were ruined.
Think about conversion, a spiritual or ethical change of heart. Can real change take place without a certain unrehearsed contrition, an artlessness that throws the soul off balance as transforming grace sweeps in? Can conversion take hold without touching the sacred?
It’s true that America’s favorite podcast is over—of course I mean Serial and its twelve episodes exploring the nature of truth and reasonable doubt—but the story is still happening. It’s actually just begun, thanks to Sarah Koenig’s investigative reporting and scrupulous storytelling. The case for Adnan Syed’s innocence is … well, pending. If nothing else the State of Maryland’s case against Mr. Syed was shown as fragile at best and ludicrous at worst. DNA evidence was never tested, other witness testimony ignored, and, while never explicitly mentioned, the whole justice system stinks of corruption. (Why is it the only people who adamantly stand by the case are all white men involved in the prosecution? We’re looking at you, Kevin Urick.)
I have often heard people who read Chesterton say that despite the expenditure being a mite difficult, reading him was something most definitely delightful. Perhaps this is because Chesterton has the uncanny ability to rephrase a thought or concept in an untraditional way—through a new lens. In many ways I find this helpful since it enables me to rethink what I previously assumed had already been soundly concluded. Either way, looking through the Chesterton lens is often rewarding. And more often than not, the G.K aperture captures a very large region of thought. Plus, Chesterton himself simply refuses to be narrowly labelled or simply catalogued. I suppose, if asked his category of choice, he would quickly and loudly respond “orthodox,” but then even that word would have to be greatly expanded since for many it simply means conservative. And orthodox certainly isn’t just that.