“To be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son— it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
Category Archives: C.S. Lewis
“I turn now to the love of one’s country. Here there is no need to labour M. de Rougemont’s maxim; we all know now that this love becomes a demon when it becomes a god.
Some begin to suspect that it is never anything but a demon. But then they have to reject half the high poetry and half the heroic action our race has achieved.
We cannot keep even Christ’s lament over Jerusalem. He too exhibits love for His country. Let us limit our field.
There is no need here for an essay on international ethics. When this love becomes demoniac it will of course produce wicked acts.
But others, more skilled, may say what acts between nations are wicked. We are only considering the sentiment itself in the hope of being able to distinguish its innocent from its demoniac condition. Neither of these is the efficient cause of national behaviour.
For strictly speaking it is rulers, not nations, who behave internationally. Demoniac patriotism in their subjects—I write only for subjects—will make it easier for them to act wickedly; healthy patriotism may make it harder: when they are wicked they may by propaganda encourage a demoniac condition of our sentiments in order to secure our acquiescence in their wickedness.
If they are good, they could do the opposite. That is one reason why we private persons should keep a wary eye on the health or disease of our own love for our country. And that is what I am writing about.
How ambivalent patriotism is may be gauged by the fact that no two writers have expressed it more vigorously than Kipling and Chesterton.
If it were one element two such men could not both have praised it. In reality it contains many ingredients, of which many different blends are possible.
First, there is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells.
Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Only foreigners and politicians talk about “Britain.” Kipling’s “I do not love my empire’s foes” strikes a ludicrously false note.
My empire! With this love for the place there goes a love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them and an unarmed police force and all the rest of it; for the local dialect and (a shade less) for our native language.
As Chesterton says, a man’s reasons for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners are very like his reasons for not wanting his house to be burned down; because he could not even begin to enumerate all the things he would miss.
It would be hard to find any legitimate point of view from which this feeling could be condemned. As the family offers us the first step beyond self-love, so this offers us the first step beyond family selfishness.
Of course it is not pure charity; it involves love of our neighbours in the local, not of our Neighbour, in the Dominical, sense. But those who do not love the fellow-villagers or fellow-townsmen whom they have seen are not likely to have got very far towards loving “Man” whom they have not.
All natural affections, including this, can become rivals to spiritual love: but they can also be preparatory imitations of it, training (so to speak) of the spiritual muscles which Grace may later put to a higher service; as women nurse dolls in childhood and later nurse children.
There may come an occasion for renouncing this love; pluck out your right eye. But you need to have an eye first.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1960/1988), 22-24.
“To Lucy Matthews:
Sept 14th 1957
Dear Lucy Matthews,
I am so glad you like the Narnian stories and it was nice of you to write and tell me. I love E. Nesbit too and I think I have learned a lot from her about how to write stories of this kind.
Do you know Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? I think you would like it. I am also bad at Maths and it is a continual nuisance to me– I get muddled over my change in shops. I hope you’ll have better luck and get over the difficulty! It makes life a lot easier.
It makes me, I think, more humble than proud to know that Aslan has allowed me to be the means of making Him more real to you. Because He could have used anyone–as He made a donkey preach a good sermon to Balaam.
Perhaps, in return, you will sometimes say a prayer for me? With all good wishes.
C. S. Lewis”
–C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 3: 882-883. Lewis was born on November 29, 1898.
“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.
You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.
Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all of your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw– but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported.
Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of– something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side?
Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling of that which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for?
You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear.
But if it should ever really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself- you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say, ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’
We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.
While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 1940/1996), 149-151.
“Don’t you go talking about things you don’t understand, Nikabrik,” said Trufflehunter. “You Dwarfs are as forgetful and changeable as the Humans themselves. I’m a beast, I am, and a Badger what’s more. We don’t change. We hold on. I say great good will come of it. This is the true King of Narnia we’ve got here: a true King, coming back to true Narnia. And we beasts remember, even if Dwarfs forget, that Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King.”
“Whistles and whirligigs! Trufflehunter,” said Trumpkin. “You don’t mean you want to give the country to Humans?”
“I said nothing about that,” answered the Badger. “It’s not Men’s country (who should know that better than me?) but it’s a country for a man to be King of. We badgers have long enough memories to know that. Why, bless us all, wasn’t the High King Peter a Man?”
“Do you believe all those old stories?” asked Trumpkin.
“I tell you, we don’t change, we beasts,” said Trufflehunter. “We don’t forget. I believe in the High King Peter and the rest that reigned at Cair Paravel, as firmly as I believe in Aslan himself.”
“As firmly as that, I daresay,” said Trumpkin. “But who believes in Aslan nowadays?”
“I do,” said Caspian.
–C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia) (New York: Harper Collins, 1951), 69-70.
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.”
They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad. “Aren’t you dead then, dear Aslan?” said Lucy.
“Not now,” said Aslan.
“You’re not—not a—?” asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word ghost.
Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.
“Do I look it?” he said.
“Oh, you’re real, you’re real! Oh, Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward. And now—”
“Oh yes. Now?” said Lucy, jumping up and clapping her hands.
“Oh, children,” said the Lion, “I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!”
He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hilltop he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs.
It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind. And the funny thing was that when all three finally lay together panting in the sun the girls no longer felt in the least tired or hungry or thirsty.
“And now,” said Aslan presently, “to business. I feel I am going to roar. You had better put your fingers in your ears.”
And they did. And Aslan stood up and when he opened his mouth to roar his face became so terrible that they did not dare to look at it. And they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia Book 1), (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 131-134.