Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Fool's Pardon

It came over me like a thunderclap about 30 seconds after I had left you in the Lodge this afternoon that I must seem to you to have committed, in one very short conversation, all the most unprovoked and indeed inexplicable kinds of rudeness there are.* I implore you to try to understand - and believe - how it came about with no such intention.

The starting point was the fact that I have never noticed the slightest inequality in your gait. Seeing it for the first time when I was waiting behind you to cross the street I therefore immediately assumed some temporary mishap to be the cause: no alternative explanation entered my head. My evil genius then led me to ask you about it - largely because two people who see each other once a week can't very well meet on an 'island' and say just nothing. After your answer I ought of course to have apologized and dropped the subject at once: but by that time I had completely lost my head.

You are not the first to suffer this kind of thing from me: I am subject to a kind of black-out in conversation which now and then leads to ask and say the utterly wrong thing - the Brobdingnagianly tactless thing. I have (quite against my will) made many enemies this way. I hope very much you will not become one of them: give me a fool's pardon.
~C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letter of C.S. Lewis: Volume III, Letter to Robin Oakley-Hill Feb 16, 1953


*The recipient of this letter said: "I was walking from the boathouse back to college on an unpleasantly raw winter afternoon after an unsatisfactory session of coxing when I was joined by C.S. Lewis waiting to cross the High. He said something like: "You're limping - did you hurt yourself?" I said no, I'd had polio, in a fairly unfriendly manner, because I was fed up with the weather, the unsatisfactory rowing and the tedious unfinished work I was going back to. He looked embarrassed and said "Oh, poor chap," and we went our separate ways. I was astounded to get the letter next day, and was inclined to reply that it didn't signify, but a confidant warned me to take the apology in a serious manner because otherwise it would seem that I did not appreciate the trouble he had taken in writing the letter, and I did so."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Family Life

Since the Fall no organization or way of life whatever has a natural tendency to go right. In the Middle Ages some people thought that if only they entered a religious order they would find themselves automatically becoming holy and happy: the whole native literature of the period echoes with the exposure of that fatal error. In the nineteenth century some people thought that monogamous family life would automatically make them holy and happy; the savage antidomestic literature of modern times - the Samuel Butlers, the Gosses, the Shaws - delivered the answer. In both cases the "debunkers" may have been wrong about principles and may have forgotten the maxim, abusus non tollit usum* but in both cases they were pretty right about matter of fact. Both family life and monastic life were often detestable, and it should be noticed that the serious defenders of both are well aware of the dangers and free of the sentimental illusion. [...] That is the first point on which we must be absolutely clear. The family, like the nation, can be offered to God, can be converted and redeemed, and will then become the channel of particular blessings and graces. But, like everything else that is human, it needs redemption. Unredeemed, it will produce only particular temptations, corruptions, and miseries. Charity begins at home: so does uncharity.
~C.S. Lewis, "The Sermon and the Lunch", The Grand Miracle (1970)

*"The abuse does not abolish the use"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Be in the Resistance

I do not think any efforts of my own will can end once and for all this craving for limited liabilities, this fatal reservation. Only God can. I have good faith and hope He will. Of course, I don't mean I can therefore, as they say, "sit back." What God does for us, He does in us. The process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude, especially each morning, for it grows all over me like a new shell each night. Failures will be forgiven; it is acquiescence that is fatal, the permitted, regularised presence of an area in ourselves which we still claim for our own. We may never, this side of death, drive the invader out of our territory, but we must be in the Resistance, not the Vichy government. And this, so far as I can yet see, must be begun again every day. Our morning prayer should be that in the Imitation: Da hodie perfecte incipere - grant me to make an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet.
~C.S. Lewis, "A Slip of the Tongue", The Weight of Glory (1949)