the child grows enormous but never grows up

In the end, Lewis more-or-less turned his back on self-scrutiny. He ceased to find himself interesting as a subject for reflection — something his friends often noted about him.

Lewis thought of this loss of interest in the Self as a gift that emerged from his religious conversion: in his autobiography Surprised by Joy he wrote, “If Theism had done nothing else for me, I should still be thankful that it cured me of the time-wasting and foolish practice of keeping a diary.” The connection between Theism and the abandonment of a diary may not seem obvious, but apparently Lewis thought that once one believes in God, then God becomes the chief proper object of one’s contemplation; and if one believes in the Christian God, then one’s neighbor becomes the second proper object. People occupied in the hard task of loving God and neighbor don’t have much time left over for constant self-scrutiny. (So Lewis believed; many committed journal-keepers will no doubt disagree.)

All of which leads me to think: how sad it was for Wallace, trapped in those endless “loops” of self-consciousness, and struggling most of his life between faith and unbelief. There’s a chicken-egg question here: Did he get caught in the loops because he couldn’t find his way to secure faith? Or was he unable to achieve such faith because he was caught in the loops? Presumably each experience fed and strengthened the other — it is one of the more vicious of all vicious circles.

Alan Jacobs (via wesleyhill)

A surprisingly, and disconcertingly, accurate cover for the first installment of C. S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy


A surprisingly, and disconcertingly, accurate cover for the first installment of C. S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy

All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality. And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead.
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
[C.S.] Lewis is as energetic and jolly as ever, but getting too much publicity for his or any our tastes. ‘Peterborough’, usually fairly reasonable, did him the doubtful honour of a peculiarly misrepresentative and asinine paragraph in the Daily Telegraph of Tuesday last. It began ‘Ascetic Mr Lewis’—-!!! I ask you! He put away three pints in a very short session we had this morning, and said he was ‘going short for Lent’. I suppose all the stuff you see in print is about as accurate about Tom, Dick, or Harry. It is a pity newspapers can’t leave *people* alone, and don’t make some effort to understand what they *say* (if it is worth it): at any rate they might have some standards that would prevent them saying things about people which are quite untrue, even if not actually (as often) painful, angering, or indeed injurious … . .
J.R.R. Tolkien, in a letter to his son Christopher dated March 1, 1944.  ”Going short for Lent.”  Heh. (via bluedollar)
That being said, I can only confess to being repeatedly humbled and reconverted by Lewis in a way that is true of few other modern Christian writers. Re-reading works I have not looked at for some time, I realize where a good many of my favorite themes and insights came from, and am constantly struck by the richness of imagination and penetration that can be contained even in a relatively brief letter. Here is someone you do not quickly come to the end of — as a complex personality and as a writer and thinker.

Rowan Williams on C S Lewis. I resonate with this very strongly. Lewis was fairly important to me when I was a young Christian, but not nearly as important as several other figures, and for many years I largely ignored him. Only when I was asked to write a biography of Lewis did I confront the uncomfortable fact that I was keeping Lewis at arm’s length not because of any of his own failings, but because I was tired of dealing with vast hordes of evangelicals for whom whatever CSL said about anything was the last word on that topic. It wasn’t Jack that I was tired of, but Jackolatry. When I had to read everything that he wrote in preparation for writing the biography — no small task, let me tell you — I was forced to see that his was a far more copious and supple mind than I had ever realized. Like Archbishop Rowan, I occasionally had the uncomfortable experience of finding in Lewis the source of some idea that I had believed to be my own, and further had believed to be very up-to-date, responsive to the moment — not the sort of thing that would ever have occurred to an old dinosaur like CSL. Those were telling moments. (via ayjay)


But that was only one side of him. This scepticism and pessimism were the expression of his feelings. High above them, overarching them like a sky, were the things he believed, and they were wholly optimistic. They did not negate the feelings: they mocked them. To the Williams who had accepted the fruition of Deity itself as the true goal of man, and who deeply believed that the sufferings of this present time were as nothing in comparison, the other Williams, the Williams who wished to be annihilated, who would rather not have been born, was in the last resort a comic figure. He did not struggle to crush it as many religious people would have done. He saw its point of view. All that it said was, on a certain level, so very reasonable. He did not believe that God Himself wanted that frightened, indignant, and voluble creature to be annihilated; or even silenced. If it wanted to carry its hot complaints to the very Throne, even that, he felt, would be a permitted absurdity. For was not that very much what Job had done? It was true, Williams added, that the Divine answer had taken the surprising form of inviting Job to study the hippopotamus and the crocodile. But Job’s impatience had been approved. His apparent blasphemies had been accepted. The weight of the divine displeasure had been reserved for the ‘comforters’, the self-appointed advocates on God’s side, the people who tried to show that all was well—‘the sort of people’, he said, immeasurably dropping his lower jaw and fixing me with his eyes—‘the sort of people who wrote books on the Problem of Pain’.

C.S. Lewis on his friend Charles Williams, in the Preface to Essays Presented to Charles Williams.  Much to think about here, but my favorite part is (after years of occasional re-readings) still that last sentence. (via bluedollar)


…you learn. My god, do you learn.
C. S. Lewis (via nevver)

Road to Hell
A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking … as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. …What you call remembering is the last part of pleasure. …When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then-that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?

-excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (via letterswapwithm)

I always like it when I stumble upon something on here that I already have highlighted in my copy of the book.

(via hollandmatt)

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. 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.

The Inner Ring



A commencement speech given by C. S. Lewis
edited by hitRECordJoe
original version here

The Inner Ring
By C. S. Lewis

When you invite a middle-aged moralist to address you, I suppose I must conclude, however unlikely the conclusion seems, that you have a taste for middle-aged moralising. I shall do my best to gratify it. And of course everyone knows what a middle-aged moralist of my type warns his juniors against. He warns them against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But one of this trio will be enough to deal with today. The Devil, I shall leave strictly alone.  As for the Flesh, you must be very abnormal young people if you do not know quite as much about it as I do. But on the World I think I have something to say.

You have almost certainly already met the phenomenon of an Inner Ring. You discovered one in your house at school before the end of the first term. And when you had climbed up to somewhere near it by the end of your second year, perhaps you discovered that within the ring there was a Ring yet more inner, which in its turn was the fringe of the great school Ring to which the house Rings were only satellites. It is even possible that the school ring was almost in touch with a Masters’ Ring. You were beginning, in fact, to pierce through the skins of an onion. And here, too, at your University—shall I be wrong in assuming that at this very moment, invisible to me, there are several rings—independent systems or concentric rings—present in this room? And I can assure you that in whatever hospital, inn of court, diocese, school, business, or college you arrive after going down, you will find the Rings.

All this is rather obvious. I wonder whether you will say the same of my next step, which is this. I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.

Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, “Look here, we’ve got to get you in on this examination somehow” or “Charles and I saw at once that you’ve got to be on this committee.” A terrible bore… ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.

I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions, and it is not only a bad thing.  It is, in itself, a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. It is necessary. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous. Let Inner Rings be unavoidable and even an innocent feature of life, though certainly not a beautiful one; but what of our longing to enter them, our anguish when we are excluded, and the kind of pleasure we feel when we get in?

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing—the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in—one way or the other you will be that kind of man.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.

“Sound craftsmen”

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.
C. S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory. Thank you, Whiskey River. (via crashinglybeautiful)