Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Contrast of Reality and Appearance

When I was taken to the theatre as a small boy what interested me most of all was the stage scenery. [...] I knew very well that the scenery was painted canvas; that the stage rooms and stage trees, seen from behind, would not look like rooms or trees at all. That was where the interest lay. That was the fascination of our toy theatre at home, where we made our own scenery. You cut out your piece of cardboard in the shape of a tower and you painted it, and then you gummed an ordinary nursery block on to the back to make it stand upright. The rapture was to dart to and fro. You went in front and there was your tower. You went behind and there--raw, brown cardboard and a block.

In the real theatre you couldn't go "behind", but you knew it would be the same. The moment the actor vanished into the wings he entered a different world. One knew it was not a world of any particular beauty or wonder; somebody must have told me--at any rate I believed--it would be a rather dingy world of bare floors and whitewashed walls. The charm lay in the idea of being able thus to pass in and out of a world by taking three strides.

[...]All sorts of things are, in fact, doing just what the actor does, when he comes through the wings. Photons or waves (or whatever it is) come towards us from the sun through space. They are, in a scientific sense, 'light'. But as they enter the air they become 'light' in a different sense: what ordinary people call sunlight or day, the bubble of blue or grey or greenish luminosity in which we walk about and see. Day is thus a kind of stage set.

[...]We can call this the contrast of Reality and Appearance. But perhaps the fact of having first met it in the theatre will protect us from the threat of derogation which lurks in the word Appearance. For in the theatre of course the play, the 'appearance', is the thing. All the backstage 'realities' exist only for its sake and are valuable only in so far as they promote it.
~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, "Behind the Scenes" (1970)

On this day:

1956 C.S. Lewis's essay "Behind the Scenes" is first published Time and Tide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Danger of False Hope

Screwtape writes to his nephew, Wormwood, about exploiting the fatigue and horrors of war:

To produce the best results from the patient's fatigue, therefore, you must feed him with false hopes. Put into his mind plausible reasons for believing that the air raid will not be repeated. Keep him comforting himself with the though of how much he will enjoy his bed next night. Exaggerate the weariness by making him think it will soon be over; for men usually feel that a strain could have been endured no longer at the very moment when it is ending, or when they think it is ending. In this, as in the problem of cowardice, the thing to avoid is the total commitment. Whatever he says, let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it 'for a reasonable period'--and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter; in attacks on patience, chastity, and fortitude, the fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but known it) relief was almost in sight.
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (1942)


On this day:

1898: Clive Staples ("Jack") Lewis is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to parents Albert J. Lewis and Florence Augusta Hamilton Lewis.

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

Conversations With Lewis

An excerpt from C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table today:

Then one day Jack said to Humphrey: "Don't you think that D.G. should join us at The Bird and Baby on Tuesday?" I should explain that this was the name given by us to a small pub in St. Giles. Actually it was The Eagle and the Child. Thus began my real acquaintance with Jack--perhaps I should say that acquaintance turned to friendship. We met every Tuesday morning over a glass of beer. Warnie, his brother, was there; MacCallum of Pembroke; Father Gervase Mathew, O.P., from Blackfriars; Tolkien of Merton and Havard. Others came and went. We sat in a small back room with a fine coal fire in winter. Back and forth the conversation would flow. Latin tags flying around. Homer quoted in the original to make a point. And Tolkien, jumping up and down, declaiming in Anglo-Saxon. Sometime, in the summer, after we had dispersed, Havard would run Jack and me out to The Trout at Godstow, where we would sit on the wall with the Isis flowing below us and munch cheese and French bread.

One thing very noticeable at our Bird and Baby meetings was Jack's unobtrusive leadership. He sat there in a corner with his beer and just seemed to "stoke the fire" of conversation. When tragedy struck him, the death of his wife, he was absent from our meetings for a time. Attendance dropped and, to me at least, stars ceased to sparkle. When he did come back, he was the same old Jack. Our spirits rose; attendance rose. He was quite determined that his private grief should not impinge on us. Though what that grief was became obvious on the anonymous publication of A Grief Observed.
~James Dundas-Grant, C.S Lewis at the Breakfast Table: and Other Remininscences, "From an 'Outsider'", (1992)

Friday, November 25, 2005

What Happened to the Knife

Before them, beyond the pillars, there was the slope of a low hill. And now a door opened in the hillside, and light appeared in the doorway, and a figure came out, and the door shut behind it. The figure carried a light, and this light was really all that they could see distinctly. It came slowly nearer and nearer till at last it stood right at the table opposite to them. Now they could see that it was a tall girl, dressed in a single long garment of clear blue which left her arms bare. She was bareheaded and her yellow hair hung down her back. And when they looked at her they thought they had never before known what beauty meant.

The light which she had been carrying was a tall candle in a silver candlestick which she now set upon the table. If there had been any wind off the sea earlier in the night it must have died down by now, for the flame of the candle burned as straight and still as if it were in a room with the windows shut and the curtains drawn. Gold and silver on the table shone in its light.

Lucy now noticed something lying lengthwise on the table which had escaped her attention before. It was a knife of stone, sharp as steel, a cruel-looking, ancient looking thing.

No one had yet spoken a word. Then - Reepicheep first, and Caspian next - they all rose to their feet, because they felt that she was a great lady.

"Travellers who have come from far to Aslan's table," said the girl. "Why do you not eat and drink?"

"Madam," said Caspian, "we feared the food because we thought it had cast our friends into an enchanted sleep.

"They have never tasted it," she said.

"Please," said Lucy, "what happened to them?"

"Seven years ago," said the girl, "they came here in a ship whose sails were rags and timbers ready to fall apart. There were a few others with them, sailors, and when they came to this table one said, `Here is the good place. Let us set sail and reef sail and row no longer but sit down and end our days in peace!' And the second said, `No, let us re-embark and sail for Narnia and the west; it may be that Miraz is dead.' But the third, who was a very masterful man, leaped up and said, `No, by heaven. We are men and Telmarines, not brutes. What should we do but seek adventure after adventure? We have not long to live in any event. Let us spend what is left in seeking the unpeopled world behind the sunrise.' And as they quarrelled he caught up the Knife of Stone which lies there on the table and would have fought with his comrades. But it is a thing not right for him to touch. And as his fingers closed upon the hilt, deep sleep fell upon all the three. And till the enchantment is undone they will never wake."

"What is this Knife of Stone?" asked Eustace.

"Do none of you know it?" said the girl.

"I - I think," said Lucy, "I've seen something like it before. It was a knife like it that the White Witch used when she killed Aslan at the Stone Table long ago."

"It was the same," said the girl, "and it was brought here to be kept in honour while the world lasts."
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, "The Three Sleepers", (1952)

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Some believe the slumber
Of trees is in December
When timber's naked under sky
And squirrel keeps his chamber.

But I believe their fibres
Awake to life and labour
When turbulence comes roaring up
The land in loud October,

And plunders, strips, and sunders
And sends the leaves to wander
And undisguises prickly shapes
Beneath the golden splendor.

Then form returns. In warmer,
seductive days, disarming
Its firmer will, the wood gew soft
And put forth dreams to murmur.

Into earnest winter
With spirit alert it enters;
The hunter wind and the hound frost
Have quelled the green enchanter.
~C.S. Lewis, Poems, "Pattern", (1st published in The Spectator, Dec 9, 1938)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Great Joke

'My love for Michael would never have gone bad. Not if we'd lived together for millions of years.'

'You are mistaken. And you must know. Haven't you met--down there--mothers who have their sons with them, in Hell? Does their love make them happy?'

'If you mean people like the Guthrie woman and her dreadful Bobby, of course not. I hope you're not suggesting...If I had Michael I'd be perfectly happy, even in that town. I wouldn't be always talking about him till everyone hated the sound of his name, which is what Winifred Guthrie does about her brat. I wouldn't quarrel with people for not taking enough notice of him and then be furiously jealous if they did. I wouldn't go about whining and complaining that he wasn't nice to me. Because, of course, he would be nice. Don't you dare to suggest that Michael could ever become like the Guthrie boy. There are some things I won't stand.'

'What you have seen in the Guthries is what natural affection turns to in the end if it will not be converted.'

'It's a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven't I lived only for his memory all these years?'

'That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.'

'What was a mistake?'

'All that ten years' ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he'd left it; keeping anniversaries; refusing to leave that house even though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.'

'Of course they didn't care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.'

'You're wrong. No man ever felt his son's death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn't against Michael they revolted: it was against you--against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past-- and not really even Michael's past, but your past.'

'You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.'

'It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian--like embalming a dead body.'

'Oh, of course. I'm wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.'

'But of course!' said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. 'That's what we all find when we reach this country. We've all been wrong! That's the great joke. There's no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.'
~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, (1946)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Aim at Heaven

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. [...] Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (1952)


On this day:

1963 Lewis died at 5:30 p.m. at the Kilns, one week short of his sixty-fifth birthday. News of his death was overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the same day. 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.'"

Monday, November 21, 2005

Influences upon the Middle Ages

Lewis writes about Cicero's "Somnium Scipionis*":

Far more important [...] is the general character of this text, which is typical of much material which the Middle Ages inherited from antiquity. Superficially it seems to need only a few touches to bring it into line with Christianity; fundamentally it presupposes a wholy Pagan ethics and metaphysics. As we have seen, there is a heaven, but a heaven for statesmen. Scipio is exhorted to look above and despise the world; but he is to despise primarily 'the talk of the rabble' and what he is to look for above is the reward 'of his achievements'. It will be decus, fame or 'glory' in a sense very different from the Christian. Most deceptive of all is xxiv, where he is exhorted to remember that not he, but only his body, is mortal. Every Christian would in some sense agree. But it is followed almost immediately by the words 'Realise therefore that you are a god'. For Cicero that is obvious; 'among the Greeks', says Von Hugel--and he might have said 'in all classical thought'--'he who says immortal says god. The conceptions are interchangeable.' If men can go to heaven it is because they came from there; their ascent is a return. That is why the body is 'fetters'; we come into it by a sort of Fall. It is irrelevant to our nature; 'the mind of each man is the man'. All this belongs to a circle of ideas wholly different from the Christian doctrines of man's creation, fall, redemption, and resurrection. The attitude to the body which it involves was to be an unfortunate legacy for medieval Christendom.

Cicero also hands on a doctrine which may have helped, for centuries, to discourage geographical exploration. The Earth is (of course) spherical. It is divided into five zones, of which two, the Artic and the Antarctic, are uninhabitable through cold. Between the two habitable and temperate zones spreads the torrid zone, uninhabitable through heat. That is why the Antipodes, the 'contrariwise-footed' people who 'plant their footsteps in the direction opposite to you' (adversa vobis urgent vestigia), and live in the southern temperate zone, 'are nothing to us. We can never meet them; a belt of deadly heat is between us and them'.
~C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, "Selected Materials: The Classical Period", (1964)

*The dream of Scipio

Friday, November 18, 2005

Doubting Dwarves

"You must think we're blooming soft in the head, that you must," said Griffle. "We've been taken in once and now you expect us to be taken in again the next minute. We've no more use for stories about Aslan, see! Look at him! An old moke* with long ears!"

"By heaven, you make me mad," said Tirian. "Which of us said that was Aslan? That is the Ape's imitation of the real Aslan. Can't you understand?"

"And you've got a better imitation, I suppose!" said Griffle. "No thanks. We've been fooled once and we're not going to be fooled again."

"I have not," said Tirian angrily, "I serve the real Aslan."

"Where's he? Who's he? Show him to us!" said several Dwarfs.

"Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?" said Tirian. "Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He's not a tame lion."

The moment those words were out of his mouth he realized that he had made a false move. The Dwarfs at once began repeating "not a tame lion, not a tame lion," in a jeering sing-song.

"That's what the other lot kept on telling us," said one.

"Do you mean you don't believe in the real Aslan?" said Jill. "But I've seen him. And he has sent us two here out of a different world."

"Ah," said Griffle with a broad smile. "So you say. They've taught you your stuff all right. Saying your lessons, ain't you?"

"Churl," cried Tirian, "will you give a lady the lie to her very face?"

"You keep a civil tongue in your head, Mister," replied the Dwarf. "I don't think we want any more Kings - if you are Tirian, which you don't look like him - no more than we want any Aslans. We're going to look after ourselves from now on and touch our caps to nobody. See?"

"That's right," said the other Dwarfs. "We're on our own now. No more Aslan, no more Kings, no more silly stories about other worlds. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs." And they began to fall into their places and to get ready for marching back to wherever they had come from.
~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, (1956)

*British slang for "donkey"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Talking About Bicycles

"Talking about bicycles," said my friend, "I have been through the four ages. I can remember a time in early childhood when a bicycle meant nothing to me: it was just part of the huge meaningless background of grown-up gadgets against which life went on. Then came a time when to have a bicycle, and to have learned to ride it, and to be at last spinning along on one's own, early in the morning, under trees, in and out of the shadows, was like entering Paradise. That apparently effortless and frictionless gliding--more like swimming than any other motion, but really most like the discovery of a fifth element--that seemed to have solved the secret of life. Now one would begin to be happy. But, of course, I soon reached the third period. Pedalling to and fro from school (it was one of those journeys that feel up-hill both ways) in all weathers, soon revealed the prose of cycling. The bicycle, itself, became to me what his oar is to a galley slave."

"But what was the fourth age?" I asked.

"I am in it now, or rather I am frequently in it. I have had to go back to cycling lately now that there's no car. And the jobs I use it for are often dull enough. But again and again the mere fact of riding brings back a delicious whiff of memory. I recover the feelings of the second age. What's more, I see how true they were--how philosophical, even. For it really is a remarkably pleasant motion. To be sure, it is not a recipe for happiness as I then thought. In that sense the second age was a mirage. But a mirage of something."

"How do you mean?", said I.

"I mean this. Whether there is, or whether there is not, in this world or in any other, the kind of happiness which one's first experiences of cycling seemed to promise, still, on any view, it is something to have had the idea of it. The value of the thing promised remains even if that particular promise was false--even if all possible promises of it are false."
~C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns, "Talking About Bicycles" (1st published in Resistance, October 1946)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Intemperance in Work

Dear Mary,

A line in haste about the bits underlined in your letter (which I enclose for reference). Don't be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn't do. Each must do his duty "in that state of life to which God has called him". Remember that a belief in the virtues of doing for doing's sake is characteristically feminine, characteristically American, and characteristically modern: so that three veils may divide you from the correct view! There can be intemperance in work just as in drink. What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one's self-importance. As MacDonald says "In holy things may be unholy greed". And by doing what "one's station and its duties" does not demand, one can make oneself less fit for the duties it does demand and so commit some injustice. Just you give Mary a little chance as well as Martha!

~C.S. Lewis, Letters To An American Lady, Letter of March 19, 1956

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The gods themselves know pain


'The gods themselves know pain, the eternal forms.
In realms beyond the reach of cloud, and skies
Nearest the ends of air, where come no storms
Nor sound of earth, I have looked into their eyes
Peaceful and filled with pain beyond surmise,
filled with an ancient woe man cannot reach
One moment though in fire; yet calm their speech.'


'Then these,' Dymer, 'were the world I wooed...
These were the holiness of flowers and grass
And desolate dews...these, the eternal mood
Blowing the eternal theme through men that pass.
I called myself their lover--I that was
Less fit for that long service than the least
Dull, workday drudge of men or faithful beast.


'Why do they lure to them such spirits as mine,
The weak, the passionate, and the fool of dreams?
When better men go safe and never pine
With whisperings at the heart, soul-sickening gleams
Of infinite desire, and joy that seems
The promise of full power! For it was they,
The gods themselves, that led me on this way.


'Give me the truth! I ask now now for pity.
When gods call, can the following them be sin?
Was it false light that lured me from the City?
Where was the path--without it or within?
Must it be one blind throw to lose or win?
Has heaven no voice to help? Must things of dust
Guess their own way in the dark?' She said, 'They must.'

~C.S. Lewis, Dymer, Canto VIII, (1926)

Escapist link of the day: Fly through the clouds (use your mouse to steer)

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Discussion About Angels

From Warren H. Lewis's personal diary:

Up shortly before seven this morning and to early Communion with Jack...In church I managed to concentrate fairly well, and I hope with some useful results. At eleven o'clock service Thomas preached an excellent sermon on angels, clear, sensible, and with a touch or two of quiet humour. He began with the tepidity, or even absence of our belief in the angels, attributing it to the fact that many people confused them with the faeries in which they definitely disbelieved: mentioned in parenthesis that winged angels are only twice mentioned in the Bible: pointed out that the existence of angels was an integral part of theBible story: pleaded for a livelier interest in an element of religion, without which it would be duller and more common place ("and we too, if we were not so already"): and wound up with a rather beautiful suggestion of the hint which the winds give of angels going about the world on man's behalf. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I had some interesting talk with Jack on this subject when we got back to the study--the angels according to St. Denys, the different Gospel accounts of their appearance, angels in Art etc. Jack had always as a child thought of the angels as women--I had always thought of them as men, in chain armour with shield and sword--Maureen had always thought of them as "men and women but that there were far more women angels than men ones". Which Jack said "was not only erroneous but impudent".
~Warren H. Lewis, Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis, entry of September 30, 1934

Friday, November 11, 2005

Never Eat Talking Animals

At lunchtime something happened which made all three of them more anxious than ever to leave the castle of the Gentle Giants. They had lunch in the great hall at a little table of their own, near the fireplace. At a bigger table, about twenty yards away, half a dozen old giants were lunching. Their conversation was so noisy, and so high up in the air, that the children soon took no more notice of it than you would of hooters outside the window or traffic noises in the street. They were eating cold venison, a kind of food which Jill had never tasted before, and she was liking it.

Suddenly Puddleglum turned to them, and his face had gone so pale that you could see the paleness under the natural muddiness of his complexion. He said:

"Don't eat another bite."

"What's wrong?" asked the other two in a whisper.

"Didn't you hear what those giants were saying? `That's a nice tender haunch of venison,' said one of them. `Then that stag was a liar,' said another. `Why?' said the first one. `Oh,' said the other. `They say that when he was caught he said, Don't kill me, I'm tough. You won't like me.'"

For a moment Jill did not realize the full meaning of this. But she did when Scrubb's eyes opened wide with horror and he said:

"So we've been eating a Talking stag."

This discovery didn't have exactly the same effect on all of them. Jill, who was new to that world, was sorry for the poor stag and thought it rotten of the giants to have killed him. Scrubb, who had been in that world before and had at least one Talking beast as his dear friend, felt horrified; as you might feel about a murder. But Puddleglum, who was Narnian born, was sick and faint, and felt as you would feel if you found you had eaten a baby.

"We've brought the anger of Aslan on us," he said. "That's what comes of not attending to the signs. We're under a curse, I expect. If it was allowed, it would be the best thing we could do, to take these knives and drive them into our own hearts."

And gradually even Jill came to see it from his point of view. At any rate, none of them wanted any more lunch.
~C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, Chapter Nine, (1953)

On this day:

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

Fun Link of the day: Fantasy and Fairy Stickers and Decals

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Bad Dream

Wednesday 12 September (1923): I had a most horrible dream. By a certain poetic justice it turned on the idea which Jenkin and I were going to use in our shocker play: namely that of a scientist discovering how to keep consciousness and some motor nerves alive in a corpse, at the same time arresting decay, so that you really had an immortal deadman. I dreamed that the horrible thing was sent to us--in a coffin of course--to take care of.

D and Maureen* both came into the dream and it was perfectly ordinary and as vivid as life. Finally the thing escaped and I fancy ran amuck. It pursued me into a lift in the Tube in London. I got away all right but the liftman had seen it and was terribly frighted and, when I saw how he was behaving, I said to myself, "There's going to be an accident in this lift." Just at that moment I noticed the window by my bed and found myself awake.

I had a moment of intense relief but found myself hopelessly rattled and as nervous as a child. I found I had no matches. Groped my way to those on the landing, lit my candle, went downstairs and returned with a pipe and a book. My head was very bad. [...] I thought at first that this was a good example of the falsity of the rule given by L.P. Jacks that authors never dream about their own inventions: but on second thoughts I am not sure that the idea of the play did not originate in another dream I had some years ago -- unless the whole thing comes from Edgar Allen Poe...
~C.S. Lewis, All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922 - 1927, (1991)

*Mrs. Moore and her daughter

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Not Turning the Other Cheek

But the moment you introduce other factors, of course, the problem is altered. Does anyone suppose that Our Lord's hearers understood Him to mean that if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and let him get his victim? I at any rate think it impossible they could have so understood Him. I think it equally impossible that they supposed Him to mean that the best way of bringing up a child was to let it hit its parents whenever it was in a temper, or, when it had grabbed at the jam, to give it the honey also. I think the meaning of the words was perfectly clear--"Insofar as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back"--even, one would have assumed that insofar as you are a magistrate struck by a private person, a parent struck by a child, a teacher by a scholar, a sane man by a lunatic, or a soldier by the public enemy, your duties may be very different, different because [there] may be then other motives than egoistic retaliation for hitting back.
~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, "Why I Am Not a Pacifist" (1949)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

From Myth to History

Theology, while saying that a special illumination has been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men. The Divine light, we are told, 'lighteneth every man'. We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth-makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story--the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth. And the differences between the Pagan Christs (Balder, Osiris, etc.) and the Christ Himself is much what we should expect to find. The Pagan stories are all about someone dying and rising, either every year, or else nobody knows where and nobody knows when. The Christian story is about a historical personage, whose execution can be dated pretty accurately, under a named Roman magistrate, and with whom the society that He founded is in a continuous relation down to the present day. It is not the difference between falsehood and truth. It is the difference between a real event on the one hand and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other. It is like watching something come gradually into focus; first it hangs in the clouds of myth and ritual, vast and vague, then it condenses, grows hard and in a sense small, as a historical event in first-century Palestine.
~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, "Is Theology Poetry?" (1949)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sweat is Better Than Philosophy

"As well, it would be a hundred shames not to train anyone who has such a gift for the sport as you look like having."

"No," said I. "Leave me alone. Unless we can use sharps and you would kill me."

"That's women's talk, by your favour. You'd never say that again once you'd seen it done. Come. I'll not leave off till you do."

A big, kindly man, some years older than herself, can usually persuade even a sad and sullen girl. In the end I rose and went with him.

"That shield is too heavy," he said. "Here's the one for you. Slip it on, thus. And understand from the outset; your shield is a weapon, not a wall. You're fighting with it every bit as much as your sword. Watch me, now. You see the way I twist my shield--make it flicker like a butterfly. There'd be arrows and spears and sword points flying off it in every direction if we were in a hot engagement. Now: here's your sword. No, not like that. You want to grip it firm, but light. It's not a wild animal that's trying to run away from you. That's better. Now, your left foot forward. And don't look at my face, look at my sword. It isn't my face is going to fight you. And now, I'll show you a few guards."

He kept me at it for a full half-hour. It was the hardest work I'd ever done, and while it lasted, one could think of nothing else. I said not long before that work and weakness are comforters. But sweat is the kindest creature of the three--far better than philosophy, as a cure for ill thoughts.
~C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, Chapter Nine (1956)

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Inner Life of Mr. Bultitude

Mr. Bultitude's mind was as furry and unhuman in shape as his body. He did not remember, as a man in his situation would have remembered, the provincial zoo from which he had escaped during a fire, nor his first snarling and terrified arrival at the Manor, nor the slow stages whereby he had learned to love and trust its inhabitants. He did not know that he loved and trusted them now. He did not know that they were people, nor that he was a bear. Indeed, he did not know that he existed at all: everything that is represented by the words I and Me and Thou was absent from his mind. When Mrs. Maggs gave him a tin of golden syrup, as she did every Sunday morning, he did not recognize either a giver or a recipient. Goodness occurred and he tasted it. And that was all. Hence his loves might, if you wished, all be described as cupboard loves: food and warmth, hands that caressed, voices that reassured, were their objects. But if by a cupboard love you meant something cold or calculating you would be quite misunderstanding the real quality of the beast's sensations. He was no more like a human egoist than he was like a human altruist. There was no prose in his life. The appetencies which a human mind might disdain as cupboard loves were for him quivering and ecstatic aspirations which absorbed his whole being, infinite yearnings, stabbed with the threat of tragedy and shot through with the colours of Paradise. One of our race, if plunged back for a moment in the warm, trembling, iridescent pool of that pre-Adamite consciousness, would have emerged believing that he had grasped the absolute: for the states below reason and the states above it have, by their common contrast to the life we know, a certain superficial resemblance. Sometimes there returns to us from infancy the memory of a nameless delight or terror, attached to any delightful or dreadful thing, a potent adjective floating in a nounless void, a pure quality. At such moments we have experience of the shallows of that pool. But fathoms deeper than any memory can take us, right down in the central warmth and dimness, the bear lived all its life.
~C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 14, "Real Life is Meeting", (1946)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jack the "Artist"

This is so cute, I had to scan in the whole thing:

*Note 85 refers to That Hideous Strength
~C.S. Lewis,
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter to Laurence Harwood, (Dec 22, 1944)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Which Came First?

You remember the old puzzle as to whether the owl came from the egg or the egg from the owl. The modern acquiescence in universal evolutionism is a kind of optical illusion, produced by attending exclusively to the owl's emergence from the egg. We are taught from childhood to notice how the perfect oak grows from the acorn and to forget that the acorn itself was dropped by a perfect oak. We are reminded constantly that the adult human being was an embryo, never that the life of the embryo came from two adult human beings. We love to notice that the express engine of today is the descendant of the "Rocket"; we do not equally remember that the "Rocket" springs not from even more rudimentary engines, but from something much more perfect and complicated than itself--namely, a man of genius. The obviousness or naturalness which most people seem to find in the idea of emergent evolution thus seems to be a pure hallucination.
~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, "Is Theology Poetry" (1949)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Turn of the Tide - continued

Like a stab at that moment, over Crab and Bowman,
Over Maiden and Lion, came the shock
Of returning life, the start and burning pang at heart,
Setting Galaxies to tingle and rock;
And the Lords dared to breathe, and swords were sheathed
And a rustling, a relaxing began,
With a rumour and noise of the resuming of joys,
On the nerves of the universe it ran.
Then pulsing into space with delicate, dulcet pace
Came a music, infinitely small
And clear. But it swelled and drew nearer and held
All worlds in the sharpness of its call.
And now divinely deep, and louder, with the sweep
and quiver of inebriating sound,
The vibrant dithyramb shook Libra and the Ram,
The brains of Aquarius spun round;
Such a note as neither Throne nor Potentate had known
Since the Word first founded the abyss,
But this time it was changed in a mystery, estranged,
A paradox, an ambiguous bliss.
Heaven danced to it and burned. Such answer was returned
To the hush, the Favete, the fear
That Earth had sent out; revel, mirth and shout
Descended to her, sphere below sphere.
Saturn laughed and lost his latter age's frost,
His beard, Niagara-like, unfroze;
Monsters in the Sun rejoiced; the Inconstant One,
The unwedded Moon, forgot her woes.
A shiver of re-birth and deliverance on the Earth
went gliding. Her bonds were released.
Into broken light a breeze rippled and woke the seas,
In the forest it startled every beast.
Capripods fell to dance from Taproban to France,
Leprechauns from Down to Labrador,
In his green Asian dell the Phoenix from his shell
Burst forth and was the Phoenix once more.

So death lay in arrest. But at Bethlehem the bless'd
Nothing greater could be heard
Than a dry wind in the thorn, the cry of the One new-born,
And cattle in stall as they stirred.

~C.S. Lewis, Poems, "The Turn of the Tide", (1st published on this day in Punch, 1948)


Fun link of the day: Photomosaic "gigapixel" image of The Starry Night"