As long as we are thinking only of natural values we must say that the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal, or two friends talking over a pint of beer, or a man alone reading a book that interests him; and that all economies, politics, laws, armies, and institutions, save insofar as they prolong and multiply such scenes, are a mere ploughing the sand and sowing the ocean, a meaningless vanity and vexation of spirit.
Only Our Daily Bread
“The second enemy [of the scholar] is frustration — the feeling that we shall not have time to finish. If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether: of how many things, even in middle life, we lave to say ‘No time for that’, ‘Too late now’, and ‘Not for me’. But Nature herself forbids you to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and woks from moment to moment “as to the Lord”. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”
[C. S. Lewis, “Learning in Wartime”]
Salvation Changes Not Garden Nor Gardener
“I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends –
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not tread your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker’s art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden scepter down.
In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day-illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.”
[J. R. R. Tolkien, Mythopoeia]
‘…the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy,’ not just to use, not just to put to purpose, but simply to revel in, to give thanks for, to appreciate for their own kind of unique quiddity.
An Image that Needs Breaking
“There are mopes and malcontents in The Last Battle as well as contemplatives. They are the dwarfs, to whom everything is a sensory wilderness: a rich feast of pies and tongues and trifles and ices is received by their palates as hay and turnips and raw cabbage; fine wine is ditchwater; violets are stable-litter. The dwarfs are probably modeled on the young, highly educated men, ‘angry and restless,’ full of ‘distrust’ and ‘contempt,’ whom Lewis identified as the inhabitants of the modern Saturnocentric universe, which he felt that Eliot (guided by his poetic forebear, Donne) was helping imaginatively to construct. That generation of cynics were the ones whom ‘The Wasteland’ had infected with, rather than fortified against, chaos. For, to Lewis’s mind, ‘a heap of broken images’ was itself an image and one that needed breaking. Such an image exacted its own price from the human imagination which continually entertained it; consequently also form the reason and the will which permitted that entertaining. Part of Lewis’s raison d’etre as a writer was to break it.
[Michael Ward, Planet Narnia, 206]
What the Intellect is Not Ready For
“We have seen how, for Lewis, there were two kinds of cognitive experience: ‘looking at’ and ‘looking along.’ In the latter, the beam of knowledge is invisible: it provides a comprehensive, as distinct from an apprehensive, mode of understanding. If Lewis has successfully rendered the arguments of Miracles and the symbolism of the spheres into an Enjoyable form, it would not follow that they ceased either to exist or to exert influence upon readers, only that their existence and influence would be of a different order. The order in question would be a pupillary symbolical one, an order which engages the reader in a fuller, more life-like way than the magistral methods of abstract discourse can achieve. Lewis thought that ‘symbolism exists precisely for the purpose of conveying to the imagination what the intellect is not ready for’ and that poetic archetypes were ‘like words—the words of a language which speaks the else unspeakable.’ By casting Miracles and the planets into the genre of romance he deliberately circumvented conscious intellectual apprehension, and that was all to the good, for ‘an influence which cannot evade our consciousness will not go very deep.’ In this he was following his master, George MacDonald, who wrote: ‘It is not the things we see the most clearly that influence us the most powerfully.’”
[Michael Ward, Planet Narnia, 225]
Poetics Alone Can Convey It
“In turning from apologetics to romance, he did not exchange a more complex for a simpler genre. If anything, the change was from simpler to more complex. Lewis was of the opinion that rational argumentation was too rudimentary for the task of conveying Christian truths, that there were ‘great disadvantages under which the Christian apologist labours. Apologetics is controversy. You cannot conduct a controversy in those poetical expressions which alone convey the concrete. … And this means that the thing we are really talking about can never appear in the discussion at all.’’
[Michael Ward, Planet Narnia, 219]
Not Measured by Sense
“The typically insensible nature of the Holy Spirit’s operations presumably accounts for why Lewis makes the startling statement that ‘there can be no plausible images of … the Spirit.’ This is startling because there are certain images of the Third Person which are sanctioned by scripture and tradition, notably dove, breath, and fire. Lewis is naturally aware of these, and uses them himself in various places when wanting to evoke something of the Holy Spirit’s presence. But these moments are when Lewis is content, as it were, to atomise the Spirit and symoblise His transpositions into sensible awareness. Properly understood, however, the Spirit is just as present when un-sensed as sensed; and His insensible presence is the more usual experience for the Christian, in Lewis’s view. Be that as it may, it is in any case ‘the actual presence, not the sensation of the presence, of the Holy Ghost which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes, and that’s all about it.’”
[Michael Ward, Planet Narnia, 38]