Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Counting the Cost

When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother--at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie, if you gave them an inch they took an ell.

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of or which is obviously spoiling daily life. Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 9: Counting the Cost (1952)


On this day:

1954 Lewis delivers his Inaugural Lecture, "De Descriptione Temporum," at Cambridge University.

Monday, November 29, 2004


In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred yeaars ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness...

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.
~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus" (1st published in Time and Tide, 1954)


On this day:

1898 Clive Staples "Jack" Lewis is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Albert J. Lewis (1863 - 1929) and Florence Augusta Hamilton Lewis (1862-1908).

1917 Lewis arrives at the front-line trenches in France.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


Detail of painting by Ted Nasmith: "Caer Flees Suddenly"
Lullaby! Lullaby!
There's a tower strong and high
Built of oak and brick and stone,
Stands before a wood alone.
The doors are of the oak so brown
As any ale in Oxford town,
The walls are builded warm and thick
Of the old red Roman brick,
The good grey stone is over all
In arch and floor of the tower tall.
And maidens three are living there
All in the upper chamber fair,
Hung with silver, hung with pall,
And stories painted on the wall.
And softly goes the whirring loom
In my ladies' upper room,
For they shall spin both night and day
Until the stars do pass away.
But every night at evening.
The window open wide they fling,
And one of them says a word they know
And out as three white swans they go,
And the murmuring of the woods is drowned
In the soft wings' whirring sound,
As they go flying round, around,
Singing in swans' voices high
A lonely, lovely lullaby.
~C.S. Lewis, Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics
(published 1919 under the pseudonym of Clive Hamilton).


On this day:

1917 Lewis is en route to the front-line trenches in France

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Must Pity Die?

"Dante's Inferno: Pity" by William Blake

The Teacher reveals the evil aspects of Pity:

'But dare one say--it is horrible to say--that Pity must ever die?'

'Ye must distinguish. The action of Pity will live for ever: but the passion of Pity will not. The passion of Pity, the Pity we merely suffer, the ache that draws men to concede what should not be conceded and to flatter when they should speak truth, the pity that has cheated many a woman out of her virginity and many a statesman out of his honesty--that will die. It was used as a weapon by bad men against good ones: their weapon will be broken.'

'And what is the other kind--the action?'

'It's a weapon on the other side. It leaps quicker than light from the highest place to the lowest to bring healing and joy, whatever the cost to itself. It changes darkness into light and evil into good. But it will not, at the cunning tears of Hell, impose on good the tyranny of evil. Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on still having jaundice, nor make a midden of the world's garden for the sake of some who cannot abide the smell of roses.'
~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce


Note to readers: I will be taking a short holiday out of town, and will be returning next week. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Fun link of the day: The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line's Most Memorable Calls

Just in case: The Butterball Turkey Website

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Love of Knowledge is a Kind of Madness

Then something happened which completely altered his state of mind. The creature, which was still steaming and shaking itself on the back and had obviously not seen him, opened its mouth and began to make noises. This in itself was not remarkable; but a lifetime of linguistic study assured Ransom almost at once that these were articulate noises. The creature was talking. It had a language. If you are not yourself a philologist, I am afraid you must take on trust the prodigious emotional consequences of this realization in Ransom's mind. A new world he had already seen--but a new, an extra-terrestrial, a non-human language was a different matter...The love of knowledge is a kind of madness. In the fraction of a second which it took Ransom to decide that the creature was really talking, and while he still knew that he might be facing instant death, his imagination had leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar. An Introduction to the Malacandrian language---The Lunar verb--A Concise Martian-English Dictionary...the titles flitted through his mind. And what might one not discover from the speech of a non-human race? The very form of language itself, the principle behind all possible languages, might fall into his hands.
~C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, Chapter 9 (1938)


Link of the day: The Love of Squirrels is a Kind of ....never mind

Monday, November 22, 2004

Is It Wrong to Want Heaven?

We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about 'pie in the sky', and of being told that we are trying to 'escape' from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is 'pie in the sky' or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at politicial meetings or not. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man's love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.
~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (1940)


On this day:

1963 Lewis dies at 5:30 p.m. at the Kilns, one week short of his sixty-fifth birthday. He is buried in the yard of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, Oxford. Warren Lewis chose the inscription for his brother's gravestone to express his own grief. He identifies its source and special family meaning: "When our mother died on August 23, 1908, there was a Shakespearean calendar hanging on the wall of the room where she died, and my father preserved for the rest of his life the leaf for that day, with its quotation: 'Men must endure their going hence.'"

Jack (and Warnie's grave) at Headington Church

Photograph courtesy of Roger R.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Eden's Courtesy

Such natural love twixt beast and man we find
That children all desire an animal book,
And all brutes, not perverted from their kind,
Woo us with whinny, tongue, tail, song, or look;
So much of Eden's courtesy yet remains.
But when a creature's dread, or mine, has built
A wall between, I think I feel the pains
That Adam earned and do confess my guilt.
For till I tame sly fox and timorous hare
And lording lion in my self, no peace
Can be without; but after, I shall dare
Uncage the shadowy zoo and war will cease;
Because the brutes within, I do not doubt,
Are archetypal of the brutes without.
~C. S. Lewis, Poems, "Eden's Courtesy" (1964)


Interesting link of the day: Illustrator Etienne Delessert

Friday, November 19, 2004

Double Play Friday

Two little quotations for your reading pleasure today...

It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been "had for a sucker" by any number of impostors; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady (26 October 1962)

Christmas mails have "got me down." This season is to me mainly hard, gruelling work--write, write, write, till I wickedly say that if there were less good will (going through the post) there would be more peace on earth.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady (1 January 1954)


How did the tradition of sending Christmas Cards begin? Here is a link to help explain

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Sweet, Secret Desire

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you--the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter....The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.
~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (1949)


On this day (yesterday):

1917 Lewis (age eighteen) is deployed to France with his regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry. Inexplicably, his father refuses to come see him in Bristol before he is shipped off to war.

Link of the day: Did you know your Narnia Cookbook was worth this much money?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Pain Hurts

All arguments in justification of suffering provoke bitter resentment against the author. You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess, for I will tell you; I am a great coward. But what is that to the purpose? When I think of pain--of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man's heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased, of infuriating scorpion-stinging pains that startle into maniacal movement a man who seemed half dead with his previous tortures--it 'quite o'ercrows my spirit'. If I knew any way of escape I would crawl through sewers to find it. But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already: they are the same as yours. I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made 'perfect through suffering'* is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design.
~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Chapter 6: Human Pain (1940)

*Hebrews 2:10

Totally Unrelated Link of the Day: If you study this map and table, you will understand why people in Indiana have no idea what time it is.

Continuing the Indiana Bashing: (hey, I live there, I can bash it!) Alternate Suggestions for the Indiana State Motto

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

John sees the Island

I saw where they came down to the white beaches of a bay of the sea, the western end of the world, a place very ancient, folded many miles deep in the silence of forests; a place, in some sort, lying rather at the world's beginning, as though men were born travelling away from it. It was early in the morning when they came there and heard the sound of the waves; and looking across the sea--at that hour almost colourless--all those thousands became still. And what the others saw I do not know: but John saw the Island. And the morning wind, blowing offshore from it, brought the sweet smell of its orchards to them, but rarified and made faint with the thinness and purity of early air, and mixed with a little sharpness of the sea. But for John, because so many thousands looked at it with him, the pain and the longing were changed and all unlike what they had been of old; for humility was mixed with their wildness, and the sweetness came not with pride and with the lonely dreams of poets nor with the glamour of a secret, but with the homespun truth of folktales, and with the sadness of graves and freshness as of earth in the morning.

~C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism (1944)


Cool link of the day: Antarctic Macquarie Island Station Live WebCam

Another Cool Link: EarthView (a satellite image of the earth showing day and night regions in real time, clickable to zoom).

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Philosophy of History

About everything that could be called "the philosophy of history" I am a desperate sceptic. I know nothing of the future, not even whether there will be any future. I don't know whether past history has been necessary or contingent. I don't know whether the human tragicomedy is now in Act I or Act V; whether our present disorders are those of infancy or old age. I am merely considering how we should arrange or schematise those facts - ludicrously few in comparison with the totality - which survive to us (often by accident) from the past. I am less like a botanist in a forest than a woman arranging a few flowers for the drawing-room. We can't get into the real forest of the past; that is part of what the word "past" means.
~C.S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, "De Descriptione Temporum" (1955)


Link of the Day: Narnia Movie Set Report

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Magician's Book

On the next page she came to a spell "for the refreshment of the spirit'. The pictures were fewer here but very beautiful. And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. It went on for three pages and before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all. She was living in the story as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. When she had got to the third page and come to the end, she said, "That is the loveliest story I've ever read or ever shall read in my whole life. Oh, I wish I could have gone on reading it for ten years. At least I'll read it over again."

But here part of the magic of the Book came into play. You couldn't turn back. The right-hand pages, the ones ahead, could be turned; the left-hand pages could not.

"Oh, what a shame!" said Lucy. "I did so want to read it again. Well, at least I must remember it. Let's see . . . it was about . . . about . . . oh dear, it's all fading away again.

And even this last page is going blank. This is a very queer book. How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can't remember and what shall I do?"

And she never could remember; and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician's Book.
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 10: The Magician's Book (1952)


Question of the day: Do you have a book that reminds you of Lucy's forgotten story?

Cool Link of the day: Miniature Books

Friday, November 12, 2004

We Have No 'Right to Happiness'

'After all', said Clare, 'They had a right to happiness.'

We were discussing something that once happened in our own neighbourhood. Mr. A had deserted Mrs. A and got his divorce in order to marry Mrs. B, who had likewise got her divorce in order to marry Mr. A. And there was certainly no doubt that Mr. A and Mrs. B were very much in love with one another. If they continued to be in love, and if nothing went wrong with their health or their income, they might reasonably expect to be very happy.

It was equally clear that they were not happy with their old partners...You mustn't, by the way, imagine that A. was the sort of man who nonchalantly threw a wife away like the peel of an orange he'd sucked dry. Her suicide was a terrible shock to him. We all knew this, for he told us so himself. 'But what could I do?' he said. 'A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came.'

I went away thinking about the concept of a 'right to happiness'.

At first this sounds to me as odd as a right to good luck. For I believe--whatever one school of moralists may say--that we depend for a very great deal of our happiness or misery on circumstances outside all human control. A right to happiness doesn't, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to get good weather whenever you want to have a picnic.
~C.S. Lewis, "We Have No Right to Happiness", God in the Dock (1979)

Note: This article was the last thing Lewis wrote for publication. It appeared shortly after his death in The Saturday Evening Post, (December 1963)

Yummy Link of the Day: When life gives you orange peels, make marmalade

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Pacifist Politics

If not the greatest evil, yet war is a great evil. Therefore, we should all like to remove it if we can. But every war leads to another war. The removal of war must therefore be attempted. We must increase by propaganda the number of Pacifists in each nation until it becomes great enough to deter that nation from going to war. This seems to me wild work. Only liberal societies tolerate Pacifists. In the liberal society, the number of Pacifists will either be large enough to cripple the state as a belligerent, or not. If not, you have done nothing. If it is large enough, then you have handed over the state which does tolerate Pacifists to its totalitarian neighbour who does not. Pacifism of this kind is taking the straight road to a world in which there will be no Pacifists.
~C.S. Lewis, "Why I Am Not a Pacifist", The Weight of Glory (1949)


On this day:

1918 The Armistice is signed, marking the end of World War I.

Interesting Essay: Finding the Permanent in the Political: C. S. Lewis as a Political Thinker

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Great Romance

In a previous letter, Lewis has recommended to his goddaughter, Lucy Barfield, that she read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

"Leaving Lothlorien" by Ted Nasmith

Dear Lucy-

You've got it exactly right. A strict allegory is like a puzzle with a solution: a great romance is like a flower whose smell reminds you of something you can't quite place. I think the something is "the whole quality of life as we actually experience it." You can have a realistic story in which all the things and people are exactly like those we meet in real life, but the quality, the feel or texture or smell of it is not. In a great romance it is just the opposite. I've never met Orcs or Ents or Elves--but the feel of it, the sense of a huge past, of lowering danger, of heroic tasks achieved by the most apparently unheroic people, of distance, vastness, strangeness, homeliness (all blended together) is so exactly what living feels like to me. Particularly the heart-breaking quality in the most beautiful places, like Lothlorien. And it is so like the real history of the world: "Then, as now, there was a growing darkness and great deeds were done that were not wholly in vain". Neither optimism (this is the last war and after it all will be lovely forever) nor pessimism (this is the last war and all civilization will end), you notice. No. The darkness comes again and again and is never wholly triumphant nor wholly defeated.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children (Letter to Lucy Barfield 11 September 1958)


On this day:

1944 Lewis's The Great Divorce debuts in the Guardian, the first of fifteen weekly installments.

Cool link of the day: The Artwork of Ted Nasmith

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Let's Talk about the Damned, Shall We?

For some reason, I'm just in the mood for this today! For those who haven't read The Great Divorce, the title can be misleading. The story is about a dream Lewis has of a bus ride which takes him from Hell to Heaven. Once in Heaven, he meets and talks to a spirit, who used to be George MacDonald, the author of books that heavily influenced Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

"A damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see."

"Then no one can ever reach them?"

"Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend--a man can sympathise with a horse but a horse cannot sympathise with a rat. Only One has descended into Hell."

"And will He ever do so again?"

"It was not once long ago that He did it. Time does not work that way when once ye have left the Earth. All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending. There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach."

~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1946)


Question of the day: Does anyone frequent the alt.books.cs-lewis newsgroup? (I'm just curious)

Monday, November 08, 2004

From Dream to Waking

This is how I distinguish dreaming and waking. When I am awake I can, in some degree, account for and study my dream. The dragon that pursued me last night can be fitted into my waking world. I know that there are such things as dreams; I know that I had eaten an indigestible dinner; I know that a man of my reading might be expected to dream of dragons. But while in the nightmare I could not have fitted in my waking experience. The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
~C.S. Lewis, "Is Theology Poetry?", The Weight of Glory (1945)


Cool link of the day: Wandering Fire Pottery

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Two Blessings

In addition to good parents, good food, and a garden (which then seemed large) to play in, I began life with two other blessings. One was our nurse, Lizzie Endicott, in whom even the exacting memory of childhood can discover no flaw--nothing but kindness, gaiety, and good sense. There was no nonsense about 'lady nurses" in those days. Through Lizzie we struck our roots into the peasantry of County Down. We were thus free of two very different social worlds. To this I owe my lifelong immunity from the false identification which some people make of refinement with virtue. From before I can remember I had understood that certain jokes could be shared with Lizzie which were impossible in the drawing room; and also that Lizzie was, as nearly as a human can be, simply good.

The other blessing was my brother. Though three years my senior, he never seemed to be an elder brother: we were allies, not to say confederates, from the first.
~ C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1955)


On this day:

1944 Lewis reads "Is Theology Poetry?" to the Oxford University Socratic Club; it is later published in The Socratic Digest, vol. 3 (1945)

1962 Hmmm...lemme check my driver's license...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Double Play Friday

Sorry for the long delayed post--I can finally access Blogger. Anyway, today you get two quotes for the price of one mouse click. Enjoy.

I can hardly regret having escaped the appalling waste of time and spirit which would have been involved in reading the war news or taking more than an artificial and formal part in conversations about the war. To read without military knowledge or good maps accounts of fighting which were distorted before they reached the divisional general and further distorted before they left him and then "written up" out of all recognition by journalists, to strive to master what will be contradicted the next day, to fear and hope intensely on shaky evidence, is surely an ill use of the mind. Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers. Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.

~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1955)

And Sandicomm requested this quote:

I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning any language. Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are hunting for it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it, are not reading the Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle. The very formula, "Naus means a ship," is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, as behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1955)

Thursday, November 04, 2004


"peace" by Carolyn Torella

Patriotism has, then, many faces. Those who would reject it entirely do not seem to have considered what will certainly step--has already begun to step--into its place. For a long time yet, or perhaps forever, nations will live in danger. Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend them or at least to prepare for their defence. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither sweat nor blood for "their country" they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilisation, or humanity. This is a step down, not up. Patriotic sentiment did not of course need to disregard ethics. Good men needed to be convinced that their country's cause was just; but it was still their country's cause, not the cause of justice as such. The difference seems to me important. I may without self-righteousness or hypocrisy think it just to defend my house by force against a burglar; but if I start pretending that I blacked his eye purely on moral grounds--wholly indifferent to the fact that the house in question was mine--I become insufferable. The pretence that when England's cause is just we are on England's side--as some neutral Don Quixote might be--for that reason alone, is equally spurious. And nonsense draws evil after it... A false transcendence is given to things which are very much of this world.
~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960)

On this day:

1914 Warren Lewis is sent to France with the 4th Company 7th Divisional Train, British Expeditionary Force

Cool link of the day: Carolyn Torella: Moments of Creativity

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Autumn Morning

See! the pale autumn dawn
Is faint, upon the lawn
That lies in powdered white
Of hoar-frost dight

And now from tree to tree
The ghostly mist we see
Hung like a silver pall
To hallow all.

It wreathes the burdened air
So strangely everywhere
That I could almost fear
This silence drear

Where no one song-bird sings
And dream that wizard things
Mighty for hate or love
Were close above.

White as the fog and fair
Drifting through the middle air
In magic dances dread
Over my head.

Yet these should know me too
Lover and bondman true,
One that has honoured well
The mystic spell

Of earth's most solemn hours
Wherein the ancient powers
Of dryad, elf, or faun
Or leprechaun

Oft have their faces shown
To me that walked alone
Seashore or haunted fen
Or mountain glen

Wherefore I will not fear
To walk the woodlands sere
Into this autumn day
Far, far away.

~C.S. Lewis, Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics (published 1919 under the pseudonym of Clive Hamilton).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I Was the Lion

Welcome to The Window. Your little place of peace and sanity away from all the election pundits, hoopla, pollsters, analysts, commentators, and shysters. I've posted a nice, long quote today. Relax, put your feet up and read, read, read. Ah, doesn't that feel better?

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows."

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chasesd by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how ever so long it was since he had had anything to eat.

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.

"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.

"There was only one lion," said the Voice.

"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and--"

"There was only one: but he was swift of foot."

"How do you know?"

"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

"Then it was you who wounded Aravis?"

"It was I"

"But what for?"

"Child," said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."

"Who are you?" asked Shasta.

"Myself," said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself", loud and clear and gay: and then the third time "Myself", whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it.

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.

The mist was turning from black to grey and from grey to white. This must have begun to happen some time ago, but while he had been talking to the Thing he had not been noticing anything else. Now, the whiteness around him became a shining whiteness; his eyes began to blink. Somewhere ahead he could hear birds singing. He knew the night was over at last. He could see the mane and ears and head of his horse quite easily now. A golden light fell on them from the left. He thought it was the sun.

He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than the horse, a Lion. The horse did not seem to be afraid of it or else could not see it. It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.

Luckily Shasta had lived all his life too far south in Calormen to have heard the tales that were whispered in Tashbaan about a dreadful Narnian demon that appeared in the form of a lion. And of course he knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion's face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn't say anything but then he didn't want to say anything, and he knew he needn't say anything.

The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.

~C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 11: The Unwelcome Fellow Traveller (1954)


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Monday, November 01, 2004

More Meditations in a Toolshed

...it is perfectly easy to go on all your life giving explanations of religion, love, morality, honour, and the like, without having been inside any of them. And if you do that, you are simply playing with counters. You go on explaining a thing without knowing what it is. That is why a great deal of contemporary thought is, strictly speaking, thought about nothing--all the apparatus of thought busily working in a vacuum.

The other objection is this: let us go back to the toolshed. I might have discounted what I saw when looking along the beam (i.e. the leaves moving and the sun) on the ground that it was 'really only a strip of dusty light in a dark shed'. That is, I might have set up as 'true' my 'side vision ' of the beam. But then that side vision is itself an instance of the activity we call seeing. I could allow a scientist to tell me that what seemed to be a beam of light in a shed was 'really only an agitation of my own optic nerves'. And then, where are you?

In other words, you can step outside one experience only by stepping inside another. Therefore, if all inside experiences are misleading, we are always misled. Where is the rot to end?

The answer is that we must never allow the rot to begin. We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature 'intrinsically truer or better than' looking along. One must look both along and at everything.
~C.S. Lewis, "Meditation in a Toolshed", 1st published in The Coventry Evening Telegraph (17 July 1945)


Timely Link of the Day: Brain Scanners Can Probe Your Politics

Reminder to my American friends--make sure you VOTE tomorrow!