Sunday, January 29, 2006

Temporary Hiatus

Hi folks,

I want to apologize for recent lack of posts. I've been getting a little burned out on the daily posting grind. I've recently gone back to work full-time and family commitments have left me little time on the weekends to get posts typed up for the week ahead. I'm going to take a brief vacation from the blog, but hope to be back and posting soon.



Friday, January 20, 2006

There Was a Boy Called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and He Almost Deserved It.

"7 August. Have now been twenty-four hours on this ghastly boat if it isn't a dream. All the time a frightful storm has been raging (it's a good thing I'm not seasick). Huge waves keep coming in over the front and I have seen the boat nearly go under any number of times. All the others pretend to take no notice of this, either from swank or because Harold says one of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to Facts. It's madness to come out into the sea in a rotten little thing like this. Not much bigger than a lifeboat. And, of course, absolutely primitive indoors. No proper saloon, no radio, no bathrooms, no deck-chairs. I was dragged all over it yesterday evening and it would make anyone sick to hear Caspian showing off his funny little toy boat as if it was the Queen Mary. I tried to tell him what real ships are like, but he's too dense. E. and L., o f course, didn't back me up. I suppose a kid like L. doesn't realize the danger and E. is buttering up C. as everyone does here. They call him a King. I said I was a Republican but he had to ask me what that meant! He doesn't seem to know anything at all. Needless to say I've been put in the worst cabin of the boat, a perfect dungeon, and Lucy has been given a whole room on deck to herself, almost a nice room compared with the rest of this place. C. says that's because she's a girl. I tried to make him see what Alberta says, that all that sort of thing is really lowering girls but he was too dense. Still, he might see that I shall be ill if I'm kept in that hole any longer. E. says we mustn't grumble because C. is sharing it with us himself to make room for L. As if that didn't make it more crowded and far worse. Nearly forgot to say that there is also a kind of Mouse thing that gives everyone the most frightful cheek. The others can put up with it if they like but I shall twist his tail pretty soon if he tries it on me. The food is frightful too."
~C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, (1952)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Die Before You Die

"Lord, who are you?" said I.

"Do not do it," said the god. "You cannot escape Ungit by going to the deadlands, for she is there also. Die before you die. There is no chance after."

"Lord, I am Ungit."

But there was no answer. And that is another thing about the voices of the gods; when once they have ceased, though it is only a heart-beat ago and the bright hard syllables, the heavy bars or mighty obelisks of sound, are still master in your ears, it is as if they had ceased a thousand years before, and to expect further utterance is like asking for an apple from a tree that fruited the day the world was made.

The voice of the god had not changed in all those years, but I had. There was no rebel in me now. I must not drown and doubtless should not be able to.

I crawled home, troubling the quiet city once more with my dark witch-shape and my tapping stick. And when I laid my head on my pillow it seemed but a moment before my women came to wake me, whether because the whole journey had been a dream or because my weariness (which would be no wonder) had thrown me into a very fast sleep.
~C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 1956

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Spiritual Body

Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains [of heaven]. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.
~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 1960

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Pleasures are shafts of the glory as it strikes our sensibility. [...]

But aren't there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly there are. But in calling them "bad pleasures" I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean "pleasures snatched by unlawful acts." It is the stealing of the apple that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory. That does not palliate the stealing. It makes it worse. There is sacrilege in the theft. We have abused a holy thing.

I have tried, since that moment, to make every pleasure a channel of adoration. I don't mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different. How shall I put it? We can't--or I can't--hear the song of a bird simply as a sound. Its meaning or message ("That's a bird") comes with it inevitably. This heavenly fruit is instantly redolent of the orchard where it grew. This sweet air whispers of the country from whence it blows. It is a message. We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany is itself to adore.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, (1964)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Do the Math...Or Not

Oldie had decided that they could, with less trouble to himself, be made to do arithmetic. Accordingly, when you entered school at nine o'clock you took up your slate and began doing sums. Presently you were called up to "say a lesson." When that was finished you went back to your place and did more sums - and so on forever. All the other arts and sciences thus appeared as islands (mostly rocky and dangerous islands) [...] --the deep being a shoreless ocean of arithmetic. At the end of the morning you had to say how many sums you had done and it was not quite safe to lie. But supervision was slack and very little assistance was given. My brother [...] soon found the proper solution. He announced every morning with perfect truth that he had done five sums; he did not add that they were the same five every day.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, "Concentration Camp", 1955

I could never have gone far in any science because on the path of every science the lion Mathematics lies in wait for you. Even in Mathematics, whatever could have been done by mere reasoning (as in simple geometry) I did with delight; but the moment calculation came in I was helpless. I grasped the principles but my answers were always wrong. Yet though I could never have been a scientist, I had scientific as well as imaginative impulses, and I loved ratiocination.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, "The Great Knock", 1955

I am also bad at Maths and it is a continual nuisance to me - I get muddled over my change in shops. I hope you'll have better luck and get over the difficulty! It makes life a lot easier.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, (1985)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prince Caspian Must Flee

"Shall I never see you again?" said Caspian in a quavering voice.

"I hope so, dear King," said the Doctor. "What friend have I in the wide world except your Majesty? And I have a little magic. But in the meantime, speed is everything. Here are two gifts before you go. This is a little purse of gold alas, all the treasure in this castle should be your own by rights. And here is something far better."

He put in Caspian's hands something which he could hardly see but which he knew by the feel to be a horn.

"That," said Doctor Cornelius, "is the greatest and most sacred treasure of Narnia. Many terrors I endured, many spells did I utter, to find it, when I was still young. It is the magic horn of Queen Susan herself which she left behind her when she vanished from Narnia at the end of the Golden Age. It is said that whoever blows it shall have strange help - no one can say how strange. It may have the power to call Queen Lucy and King Edmund and Queen Susan and High King Peter back from the past, and they will set all to rights. It may be that it will call up Asian himself. Take it, King Caspian: but do not use it except at your greatest need. And now, haste, haste, haste. The little door at the very bottom of the Tower, the door into the garden, is unlocked. There we must part."
~C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, (1951)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

On Mrs. Moore

On this day:

1951 Janie King Moore (Mrs. Moore) died at the age of 78 in Oxford. Mrs. Moore was the mother of C.S. Lewis's army buddy Paddy Moore. She and her daughter Maureen came under Lewis's care after Paddy's death in WWI.

A rather bitter excerpt from Warren H. Lewis (CSL's brother) on the occasion:

So ends the mysterious self imposed slavery in which J has lived for at least thirty years. How it began, I suppose I shall never know but the dramatic suddenness of the "when" I shall never forget. When I sailed for West Africa in 1921, we were on the terms on which we had always been: during my absence we exchanged letters in which he appeared as eager as I was for a long holiday together, when, for the first time, I was to have a long leave and plenty of money: and when I came home, I found the situation established which ended on Friday. [...] It is quite idle, but none the less fascinating to muse of what his life might have been if he had never had the crushing misfortune to meet her: when one thinks of what he has accomplished even under that immense handicap. It would be Macaulaysque to say that he took a First * in the intervals of washing her dishes, hunting for her spectacles, taking the dog for a run, and performing the unending futile drudgery of a house which was an excruciating mixture of those of Mrs. Price and Mrs. Jellaby**; but it is true to say that he did all these things in the intervals of working for a First. Did them too with unfailing good temper (towards her) at any rate...Most infuriating to the onlooker was the fact that Minto [Mrs. Moore] never gave the faintest hint of gratitude: indeed she regarded herself as J's benefactor: presumably on the grounds that she had rescued him from the twin evils of bachelordom and matrimony at one fell swoop! Another handicap of this unnatural life was to keep J miserably poor at a time of life when his creative faculties should have been at full blast, which they couldn't be under the strain of money worry; for his allowance of £210 was quite insufficient to keep Minto and Maureen as well as himself in any sort of comfort. [...] I wonder how much of his time she did waste? It was some years before her breakdown that I calculated that merely in taking her dogs for unneeded "little walks", she had had five months of my life. I don't think J ever felt as much as I did, the weariness of the house's unrestfulness so long as she managed it; even after ten or more years of it.
~Warren H. Lewis, Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis, (1982)

**characters from Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Love for a Pet

Dear Mary,

It's no good giving you an address for I am moving about. Your letter of Aug 12th reached me today. I am delighted to hear about the job. It sounds exactly the thing, sent by God, at your most need.

I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e. at the expense of our love for Him) but in another way we love everything too little.

No person, animal, flower, or even pebble, has ever been loved too much--i.e. more than every one of God's works deserves. But you need not feel "like a murderer". Rather rejoice that God's law allows you to extend to Fanda that last mercy which (no doubt, quite rightly) we are forbidden to extend to suffering humans.
~C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Letter of August 18, 1956


On this day:

1942 Lewis begins his second series of BBC talks entitled "What Christians Believe."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Confession

(Tongue in cheek, Lewis makes fun of his own inability to understand some modern poets' metaphors):

I am so coarse, the things the poets see
Are obstinately invisible to me.
For twenty years I've stared my level best
To see if evening--any evening--would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table*;
In vain. I simply wasn't able.
To me each evening looked far more
Like the departure from a silent, yet a crowded, shore
Of a ship whose freight was everything, leaving behind
Gracefully, finally, without farewells, marooned mankind.

Red dawn behind a hedgerow in the east
Never, for me, resembled in the least
A chilblain on a cocktail-shaker's nose;
Waterfalls don't remind me of torn underclothes,
Nor glaciers of tin-cans. I've never known
The moon look like a hump-backed crone--
Rather, a prodigy, even now
Not naturalized, a riddle glaring from the Cyclops' brow
Of the cold world, reminding me on what a place
I crawl and cling, a planet with no bulwarks, out in space.

Never the white sun of the wintriest day
Struck me as un crachat d'estaminet**.
I'm like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom
A primrose was a yellow primrose, one whose doom
Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,
Compelled to live on stock responses,
Making the poor best that I can
Of dull things...peaocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran,
Silver weirs, new-cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,
The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.
~C.S. Lewis, Poems, "A Confession", (1st published in Punch, Dec 1, 1954)


*this is a reference to T.S. Eliot's poem "Prufrock"
** a reference to a poem by Jules Laforgue, one of the first French poets to write in free verse: "The Winter Comes", where the winter sun is referred to as looking like "spittle in a pub's spittoon".

Modern art link of the day: Vladimir Kush, whose work "Bound for Distant Shores" is shown above.

Monday, January 09, 2006

War in Heaven

The devil Screwtape explains to his nephew, Wormwood about the quarrel between God (the Enemy) and Satan (he refers to him as our Father):

What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question. I do not see that it can do any harm to tell you that this very problem was a chief cause of Our Father's quarrel with the Enemy. When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that He foresaw a certain episode about a cross, our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied 'I wish with all my heart that you did.' It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our Father's disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous Enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven. Since then, we have begun to see why our Oppressor was so secretive. His throne depends on the secret. Members of His faction have frequently admitted that if ever we came to understand what He means by love, the war would be over and we should re-enter Heaven. And there lies the great task. We know that He cannot really love: nobody can: it doesn't make sense. If we could only find out what He is really up to!
~C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, (1942)

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Face of the Lion

Both the children were looking up into the Lion's face as he spoke these words. And all at once (they never knew exactly how it happened) the face seemed to be a sea of tossing gold in which they were floating, and such a sweetness and power rolled about them and over them and entered them that they felt they had never really been happy or wise or good, or even alive and awake, before. And the memory of that moment stayed with them always, so that as long as they both lived, if ever they were sad or afraid or angry, the thought of all that golden goodness, and the feeling that it was still there, quite close, just round some corner or just behind some door, would come back and make them sure, deep down inside, that all was well.
~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew, (1955)


LiveJournal Link of the Day: My fledgling graphics journal, Dymer's Dream

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Poetry of the Psalms

If we have any taste for poetry we shall enjoy this feature of the Psalms. Even those Christians who cannot enjoy it will respect it; for Our Lord, soaked in the poetic tradition of His country, delighted to use it. "For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7, 2). The second half of the verse makes no logical addition; it echoes, with variation, the first, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you" (7,7). The advice is given in the first phrase, then twice repeated with different images. We may, if we like, see in this an exclusively practical and didactic purpose; by giving to truths which are infinitely worth remembering this rhythmic and incantatory expression, He made them almost impossible to forget. I like to suspect more. It seems to me appropriate, almost inevitable, that when that great Imagination which in the beginning, for Its own delight and for the delight of men and angels and (in their proper mode) of beasts, had invented and formed the whole world of Nature, submitted to express Itself in human speech, that speech should sometimes be poetry. For poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible.
~C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, (1958)


Artchive Link of the Day: Commentary on Joseph Turner's painting "The Snowstorm" (shown above).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On Pride

How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. Any any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good--above all, that we are better than someone else--I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (1952)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

First Lecture

I have given my first lecture. I suppose my various friends in the English Schools have been telling their pupils to come to it: at any rate it was a pleasant change from talking to empty rooms in Greats. I modestly selected the smallest lecture room in College. As I approached, half wondering if anyone would turn up, I noticed a crowd of undergraduates coming into Magdalen, but it was no mock modesty to assume that they were coming to hear someone else. When however I actually reached my own room it was crowded out and I had to sally forth with the audience at my heels to find another. The porter directed me to one which we have in another building across the street. So we all surged over the High in a disorderly mass, suspending the traffic. It was a most exhilarating scene. Of course their coming to the first lecture, the men to see what it is like, the girls to see what I am like, really means nothing: curiosity is now satisfied--I have been weighed, with results as yet unknown--and next week I may have an audience of five or none. Still it is something to be given a chance.
C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume I, Letter to his father, Jan 25, 1926

On this day:

January 1911 Lewis (age twelve) enrolls at Cherbourg Preparatory School in Malvern.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Breaking Resolutions

I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc. don't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the baths are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of His presence.
~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II, Letter to Mary Neyland, Jan 20, 1942


Happy New Year to all of you!