“The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words—’free-love’—as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
The following poem appeared in C. S. Lewis’s first published book, a collection of poetry titled Spirits in Bondage, 1919. While the book as a whole received lukewarm reviews at best and was written during his pre-Christian, angst-ridden days, one sees refreshing hints of his love for myth and England in the collection. These provide interesting indications of what Lewis would spend a great deal of his energy writing about post-conversion. In these poems, one can detect that even at such a young age, Lewis was “living in a world of contradictions”: hating God for not existing and hating Him for creating the world. In Surprised By Joy, Lewis writes the following about that time: “The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest contrast. On the one side a many-islanded sea of poetry and myth; on the other a glib and shallow ‘rationalism’. Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.”
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
Here is more wonderful wisdom from Chesterton, this time for managing the innumerable inconveniences that plague modern life (ironically, despite all its convenience). It’s wonderful wisdom because, as usual, he challenges us to recapture our sense of wonder at the world. Chesterton took his anti-reductionism very seriously, applying it in all areas, even the seemingly mundane annoyances of everyday life. What a heart and mind! Enjoy!
“On Running After One’s Hat”
from All Things Considered, 1908
“I feel an almost savage envy on hearing that London has been flooded in my absence, while I am in the mere country. My own Battersea has been, I understand, particularly favoured as a meeting of the waters. Battersea was already, as I need hardly say, the most beautiful of human localities. Now that it has the additional splendour of great sheets of water, there must be something quite incomparable in the landscape (or waterscape) of my own romantic town. Battersea must be a vision of Venice. The boat that brought the meat from the butcher’s must have shot along those lanes of rippling silver with the strange smoothness of the gondola. The greengrocer who brought cabbages to the corner of the Latchmere Road must have leant upon the oar with the unearthly grace of the gondolier. There is nothing so perfectly poetical as an island; and when a district is flooded it becomes an archipelago.
On Christianity and the “Candor and Wonder of the Child”: “I shall try to show in these pages that when we do make this imaginative effort to see the whole thing from the outside, we find that it really looks like what is traditionally said about it inside … To put it shortly, the moment we are really impartial about it, we know why people are partial to it … In order to strike, in the only sane or possible sense, the note of impartiality, it is necessary to touch the nerve of novelty. I mean that in one sense we see things fairly when we see them first. That, I may remark in passing, is why children generally have very little difficulty about the dogmas of the Church. But the Church, being a highly practical thing for working and fighting, is necessarily a thing for men and not merely for children. There must be in it for working purposes a great deal of tradition, of familiarity, and even of routine. So long as its fundamentals are sincerely felt, this may even be the saner condition. But when its fundamentals are doubted, as at present, we must try to recover the candour and wonder of the child; the unspoilt realism and objectivity of innocence. Or if we cannot do that, we must try at least to shake off the cloud of mere custom and see the thing as new, if only by seeing it as unnatural. Things that may well be familiar so long as familiarity breeds affection had much better become unfamiliar when familiarity breeds contempt. For in connection with things so great as are here considered, whatever our view of them, contempt must be a mistake. Indeed contempt must be an illusion. We must invoke the most wild and soaring sort of imagination; the imagination that can see what is there.” – G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
“Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia … as you drop down into Narnia the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind …. that is why it is so important to know [the signs] by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” – Aslan to Jill from “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis
I believe this quote captures one of the primary themes of C.S. Lewis’s, The Silver Chair (the next to the last book in his Chronicles of Narnia). Lewis scholar Michael Ward argues in his excellent book, Planet Narnia that Lewis imbued the Chronicles with Medieval cosmology, each of the seven books having its own tutelary planet. Mankind has always been fascinated with the Cosmos, believing that the stars and planets influenced the affairs of men and nature. The Medieval church baptized many of these ancient beliefs, discarding what was clearly heretical and infusing what remained with the doctrine of an orderly universe governed by God’s decrees where the heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19 and Psalm 136). In the medieval worldview, God upheld the universe with His love, being as Dante wrote in the final words of The Divine Comedy, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” Each of the seven planets of medieval cosmology influenced nature with its own unique qualities. Ward claims very convincingly that Lewis infused The Silver Chair with lunar influences (the medieval mind considered both the sun and moon as part of the collection of seven planets, the other five being Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).
I just ran across this wonderful interview with Peter J. Leithart, an American author, theologian, and blogger with First Things. The interview examines the relationship between loneliness, mental health, technology, and the modern obsession with autonomy and self-creation. You can read it here: “The Soul-Shattering Sting of Loneliness”.