Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Hate for the Write Reasons

While reading from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, I came across this gem:

I have read nothing lately, except a foolish modern novel which I read at one sitting – or rather one lying on the sofa, this afternoon in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm. I think, that if modern novels are to be read at all, they should be taken like this, at one gulp, and then thrown away – preferably into the fire (that is if they are not in one’s own edition). Not that I despise them because they are modern, but really most of them are pretty sickly with their everlasting problems.

It is my personal opinion that the most infuriating species of book snob is the Time Lord.

(You, over there, in the Dr. Who costume. Yes, you. Sit the bloody Dalek down. I’m talking about something different.)

Now. The Time Lord considers it his God-given duty and privilege to inform us that his reading pile dates back to before the Flood. Nothing after that is fit for consumption, it seems. If you ask him about it, he’ll take you bunny-chasing on the brutally short trail of Circular Reasoning:

Why don’t you read modern fiction?
Because it is vile and vapid.
Why is it vile and vapid?
Because it is modern.

Clearly, they haven’t thought this through very well. And that is why I love Lewis’ little qualifier: “Not that I despise them because they are modern, but…”

If you’re gonna lay a steaming pile of hate on the dreck that all too frequently passes for fiction these days, at least do it for the write reasons. Do it, like Lewis, because they are “pretty sickly with their everlasting problems.” Do it for the dreadful prose, do it for the lazy storytelling, do it for the characters with all the intrigue of candle wax. But you should know why you hate something beyond its spot on a timeline.

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He’s Got It Down

While Mom was out shopping last week, she took the Littles to the store to pick out a treat. As his sisters went straight for the animal figurines, Jedediah – the lone boy in a group full of girls – made a beeline for the manly stuff. In case anybody’s wondering, the kid is three. I’d swear he’s really older than that, but every time I make a comparison to Benjamin Button, I get slapped.

Anyway.

In this case, the “manly stuff” was a set of knights: decked in plastic, weapons of minor destruction in hand, ready for games of war. Then he picked up a dragon, too.

To which Mom said: “No, you can only pick out one thing.”

To which he said: “But the knights need to kill the dragon.”

He ended up with both. Obviously.

Because, as Lewis would say: “Since it is so likely that children will meet with cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

Because, as Chesterton would say: “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

Because, as Wilson would say: “What is the point of the whole Bible? Kill the dragon and get the girl.”

Little bro’s got it down.

No Swords (or Pruning Hooks) Allowed

This article in TIME by Christina Hoff Sommers is well worth a read:

As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

Exhibits X, Y, and Z in the Ongoing War on Masculinity. ‘Cause boys are just so freaking violent. If you see one behaving, y’know, the way boys normally do (wrestling, sword-fighting, playing army, etc.) be sure to call 911. We’ll send a squad car and a straightjacket right away.

What was it Lewis wrote in that magnificent little volume The Abolition of Man? “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Even this scathing indictment is too generous for us. We remove the organ because we hate the function. We make men without chests because we’re scared of what they might do if they had them. We laugh at honor because we know that honor is an antiquated notion best left to the Victorians. We castrate because the last thing we want is fruitfulness.

In Future Men, Wilson argues that “men who follow Jesus Christ, the dragon-slayer, must themselves become lesser dragon-slayers. And that is why it is absolutely essential for boys to play with wooden swords and plastic guns. Boys have a deep need to have something to defend, something to represent in battle. And to beat the spears into pruning hooks prematurely, before the war is over, will leave you fighting the dragon with a pruning hook.”

Let us have our way, and pruning hooks will be banned, too.

Evolutionary Hymn

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

Wrong or justice, joy or sorrow,
In the present what are they
while there’s always jam-tomorrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we’re going,
We can never go astray.

To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.

Ask not if it’s god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.

Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature’s simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
‘Goodness = what comes next.’
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.

On then! Value means survival –
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present,
Standards, though it may well be).

– C.S. Lewis

Superlative

“Don’t use words too big for the subject: don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” – C.S. Lewis

Never say savor when you only mean taste –
one is a holding on the tongue and an intoxication
and the other is cursory, a sampling, connoting
reluctance to bask. Never say a thing you don’t mean.

Never say agony for pain or vast for very big or
love for the agitated chemistry of bodies unknown
to each other. If you say eternal for longevity, how
will you ever convince us of undying things?

Never say always for most of the time, or downpour
for the dribbling of hesitant rain. If you say you
believe in something you only hope tremulously to
be true, how shall we be made to understand faith?

Never say never when you only mean, “not at any time
in the past or the future as far as we know.” Because you
might not know. And when you truly need to say,
“I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” you will hear it
echoed back at you: the riotous mockery of a world
hungry for reasons to doubt. Tell us the whole truth
and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

Bryana Johnson