August 9th, 2012A Chestertonian Oasisby Joseph Pearce
I've just finished reading Kevin O'Brien's excellent and superbly written post about this year's Chesterton Conference (The Oasis of Joy
). I can't hope to emulate Kevin's evocative snapshot of the multifaceted experience but I did want to echo his metaphorical understanding of Reno's place as being symbolic of the decay of the American Dream. It was my first experience of a "casino resort" but I saw instantly how such places are the last resort of the sort of American who has been utterly gollumized by his addiction to the "precious" promise that hedonism is a path to happiness. The promise is, in fact, a lie. Hedonism is not a path to happiness but to emptiness. This was made shockingly clear to me on the two occasions that I accidentally bumped into people as I walked amongst the gamblers in the casino. On both occasions my apologies were met with vacant expressions, empty of all human recognition, as though I had met a zombie in an undead trance. It would have been a little scary if it were not so grimly humorous. Throughout the three days of the conference I was continually chuckling inside at the sheer paradoxical incongruity of a Chesterton Conference being held in such a place. How absurd! How absolutely delightfully absurd! A couple of hundred joy-filled and rambunctious Christians, alive with the Faith and full of fun, capering with jollity in the land of the dead. The irony of such a scenario was only accentuated by the fact that the theme of this year's conference was Chesterton's novel Manalive
. How appropriate: a conference attended by men and women who were truly alive in the belly of a beast filled to the brim with the living dead. Such was the presence of the Chesterton Conference in the desert of Reno; such is the presence of the Church in the desert of the world.