That, I fancy, is the only true origin of Realism. Realism is simply Romanticism that has lost its reason. This is so not merely in the sense of insanity but of suicide. It has lost its reason; that is its reason for existing. The old Greeks summoned godlike things to worship their god. The medieval Christians summoned all things to worship theirs, dwarfs and pelicans, monkeys and madmen. The modern realists summon all these million creatures to worship their god; and then have no god for them to worship. Paganism was in art a pure beauty; that was the dawn. Christianity was a beauty created by controlling a million monsters of ugliness; and that in my belief was the zenith and the noon. Modern art and science practically mean having the million monsters and being unable to control them; and I will venture to call that the disruption and the decay.
It always amazes me to read Christian writers, in this case, Chesterton, who lived a hundred or more years ago and see how well they were able to diagnose the ills of modernism overtaking society. They saw the problems arising yet seemed powerless to stop them. As a result, we find ourselves living today in a world where the monsters have taken over, our fears, in truth, have become all controlling. We seem no longer to have the courage, or virtue, to withstand the worst of our all too human tendencies. To point this out is deemed intolerance.
I take comfort from the fact that our Lord warned us to expect this sort of thing. It may be that where our ancestors in the faith failed to stem the tide of decay, we can still succeed. I’ve thought for some time that what needs to be done is not some mass media campaign, not even a successful political campaign. The real answer must lie in conversion, our own first, then our neighbor. But it starts with ourselves, with prayer, faith and then a living out the rest of the virtues, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and most of all fortitude. The best we can do is, I think, is try to be live and exemplify the Christian life; we won’t be perfect, but we can give it our best shot.