Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Illusions of Independence

Aug 10th 53

Dear Mrs. ------

I have just got your letter of the 6th. Oh I do so sympathise with you; job-hunting, even in youth, is a heartbreaking affair and to have to go back to it now must be simply--I was going to say "simply Hell", but no one who is engaged in prayer and humility, as you are, can be there, so I'd better say "Purgatory". (We have as a matter of fact good authorities for calling it something better than Purgatory. We are told that even those tribulations which fall upon us by necessity, if embraced for Christ's sake, become as meritorious as voluntary sufferings and every missed meal can be converted into a fast if taken in the right way.) I suppose--tho' the person who is not suffering feels shy about saying it to the person who is--that it is good for us to be cured of the illusion of "independence". For of course independence, the state of being indebted to no one, is eternally impossible. Who, after all, is more totally dependent than what we call the man "of independent means". Every shirt he wears is made by other people out of other organisms and the only difference between him and us is that even the money whereby he pays for it was earned by other people. Of course you ought to be dependent on your daughter and son-in-law. Support of parents is a most ancient and universally acknowledged duty. And if you come to find yourself dependent on anyone else you mustn't mind. But I am very, very sorry. I'm a panic-y person about money myself (which is a most shameful confession and a thing dead against our Lord's words) and poverty frightens me more than anything else except large spiders and the tops of cliffs; one is sometimes even tempted to say that if God wanted us to live like the lilies of the field He might have given us an organism more like theirs! But of course He is right. And when you meet anyone who does live like the lilies, one sees that He is. God keep you and encourage you. I am just about to go off to Ireland where I shall be moving about, so I shan't hear from you for several weeks. All blessings and deepest sympathy.

C.S. Lewis

Letters to an American Lady (1967)

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