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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #68

	But as I sat scrawling these silly figures on brown paper, it began to dawn on me, to my great disgust, that I had left one chalk, and that a most exquisite and essential one, behind.  I searched all my pockets, but I could not find any white chalk.  Now, those who are acquainted with the philosophy (nay, religion) which is typified in the art of drawing on brown paper, know that white is positive and essential.  I cannot help remarking here upon a moral significance.  One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals is this: that white is a colour.  It is not a mere absence of colour, it is a shining and affirmative thing: as fierce as red, as definite as black.  When (so to speak) your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars.  And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality – of real Christianity, for example – is exactly this same thing.  The chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour.  Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell.  Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge and punishment: it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen, Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming like Joan of Arc.  In a word, God paints in many colours, but He never paints so gorgeously – I had almost said so gaudily – as when He paints in white.    G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909), quoted in Chesterton Day by Day: the Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton (1912, revised 2002, ed. Michael W. Perry), p. 17

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