The essay presented by Gilbert Chesterton clearly emphasizes his wit and deep understanding of humanity. Chesterton portrays certain issues that reflect upon society’s vices and virtues. Although this work initially comes across as an informal rambling, Chesterton presents his first theme of what one can do while lying in bed in a vivid and picturesque fashion. Playing on the first theme, he then expresses the hypocrisy he bestows upon people who lie in bed. Lastly, the author admonishes the practice of lying in bed for unjustifiable reasons. In all, Chesterton uses a very common theme to demonstrate that an understanding of mankind’s habits can be a window to their behavior.
At the commencement of the essay, Chesterton enlightens the readers of the brilliance of what one can do while lying in bed. The author provides a vibrant depiction of painting on a ceiling while lying on one’s back, as Michelangelo did, as an example of what a common person can accomplish when his mind is free to create without the burden of limitations. He uses this as a standard to show that much of man’s best works have been created at times when earthly restriction have been removed and allowed man to pursue actions driven by inspiration rather than rules.
Although many look down upon the unjustified action of lying in bed because they consider that it exemplifies laziness and lethargy, Chesterton feels that many productive dealings can be accomplished in this matter. Chesterton’s convictions are clearly reflected in his hatred of meaningless colors and patterns found in common household items such as wallpaper and carpets. The author firmly believes that if mankind allows himself to lie in bed and contemplate with a relaxed mind, he will be more prone to produce an array of more meaningful creations that appeal to his intellect.
What can be more mundane or routine than getting up in the mourning? This is perhaps why the author selected this most common of all behaviors, to voice his beliefs of the hypocrisy of human morality. He is obsessed with the notion that man’s minor actions should be free, flexible, and creative. He reminds us that it is man’s principles and ideas that should bear the burden of steadfastness. The hypocrisy lies in that mankind places an overwhelming amount of emphasis on so called “good habits,” such as getting out of bed early at the expense of the virtues which simple customs cannot address. It seems as though the author attributes much of what ails society to a focus on secondary matters instead of deeply understanding religious and philosophical issues of significance.
Chesterton prefers to give little reason for lying in bed. This is understood to mean that one should not require a justification to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. The right reason to lie in bed, as well as the right reason to read a book or enjoy a stroll in the park, should be done without any excuse or permission from anyone. The author goes as far as implying that lying in bed for any other reason, such as beauty or health, can result in an effect which can be quite the opposite than what was desired. The reader should remain vigilant of the author’s motive, which is not to simply discuss the matter of rest and relaxation, but rather to extol his poignant views on recognizing the virtues of personal indulgence.
Chesterton’s essay On Lying In Bed underscores his reverence for understanding the value of the insignificant actions that man undertakes. In his recognition that the world is but a canvas to the artist hidden inside everyman, he describes the benefits of allowing one’s mind to wonder freely. He does not agree with the hypocritical societal belief that getting out of bed early is a virtue. He ironically relates the dregs of society to those who leave their beds early in his quote:
“Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before.”
He concludes with the affirmation that man needs no just cause to remain in bed just as he needs no reason to conduct the simple things in life that can bring him much satisfaction. He emphatically states that it is better to stay in bed for unexplained reasons than it is to stay for a so-called medical, hygienic, or scientific purpose. One would expect that a man of Chesterton’s overweight physique would be an expert at the task of lying in bed, however whether from personal experience or not, he brings forth a deep-rooted understanding of human nature.