Thursday, July 14, 2005

Division of Spirit and Organism

Almost the whole of Christian theology could perhaps be deduced from the two facts (a) That men make coarse jokes, and (b) That they feel the dead to be uncanny. The coarse joke proclaims that we have here an animal which finds its own animality either objectionable or funny. Unless there had been a quarrel between the spirit and the organism I do not see how this could be: it is the very mark of the two not being 'at home' together. But it is very difficult to imagine such a state of affairs as original--to suppose a creature which from the very first was half shocked and half tickled to death at the mere fact of the creature it is. I do not perceive that dogs see anything funny about being dogs: I suspect that angels see nothing funny about being angels. Our feeling about the dead is equally odd. It is idle to say that we dislike corpses because we are afraid of ghosts. You might say with equal truth that we fear ghosts because we dislike corpses--for the ghost owes much of its horror to the associated ideas of pallor, decay, coffins, shrouds, and worms. In reality we hate the division which makes possible the conception of either corpse or ghost. Because the thing ought not to be divided, each of the halves into which it falls by division is detestable.
~C.S. Lewis, Miracles, (1947)

3 Comment(s):

At Thu Jul 14, 03:22:00 PM EST, Blogger MrKimi said...

I have a suspicion dogs do see something funny about being a dog, but dogs have humility. Cats, for example, don't, except for very elderly cats who appreciate being nursed through their final months, though they probably don't see much funny in that.

I think we avoid corpses because of survival issues. Whatever got them might get us next. We have this embedded in our programming at the same level that tells us to go somewhere private for some bodily functions.

Thanks for getting me thinking....

At Thu Jul 14, 07:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Bob said...

I certainly thought that his initial sentence was rather a sweeping overstatement, but I found this particular concept thought-provoking. I do think that dogs derive a great deal of joy from being dogs, but I don't know that they necessarily find themselves funny.

At Fri Jul 15, 05:44:00 AM EST, Blogger MrKimi said...

I agree, dogs might be just joyful. How could we tell?

I have definitely seen animals upset when confronted with their own dead. I recall seeing a herd of cows in a field realise suddenly that one of their number was dead and they were all clearly distressed. It just might have been grief but that was not my impression at the time.


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