Another death on Nov. 22, 1963: Remembering C.S. Lewis

Photo: Bob Embleton

Plaque at the Unicorn Inn, Malvern, England. Photo by Bob Embleton.

Many remember well where we were on that day draped in melancholy memory when the terrible news radiated out of Dallas. Followed by nonstop news coverage: Dealey Plaza, horrific footage, the killer murdered on Sunday-morning live television, a bereaved widow and family, lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, funeral, horse-drawn caisson, bagpipes, taps. Tragic for many reasons, not least the cutting short of a life with potential to be truly exceptional in terms of constructive influence on the lives of others.

In contrast, the mortal life of C.S. Lewis – though it ended that same morning – continues to illuminate and edify the lives of readers of his brilliant writing.

Classic snippets include:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.

Among personal favorite C.S. Lewis quotes and the one for which I most frequently see relevance and application:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

Reflecting on the significance of Lewis’ works, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson observed:

Any writer finds reading Lewis a joy. He wrote so lucidly on such a range of topics, from medieval literature to modern education to church music to nuclear war. But for some of us, Lewis’s arguments also involve a sudden, jarring reorientation of perspective. … Intending to curl up with a good book, you find yourself like the prisoner freed from Plato’s cave or Lazarus leaving his tomb.

In Erik Schulzke’s view,

Lewis describes his conversion to Christianity as a game of chess against God, with Lewis losing pieces as he tries to slow the advance of a superior player. “Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully,” Lewis writes. “Dangers lie for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to ‘know of the doctrine.’”

Jim Jardine, Utah attorney, university honors program instructor and life-long admirer offers insights to Lewis’ profound and enduring influence.

Lewis’ conversion from atheism back to Christianity, described in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, was by a different path than most. … He eventually gave in to what he had come to recognize as the reality of a personal God: “That which I feared had at last come upon me. In … 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England,” he wrote.

Although a new convert, Lewis immediately became a defender of the faith. …

In 1942, The Screwtape Letters was published after appearing as a series of letters to a British newspaper. The letters are an imagined correspondence between Screwtape, a junior administrator in Satan’s bureaucracy, and his nephew, Wormwood, a junior devil on Earth, on how to tempt his assigned mortal. The insights into human frailty and sin are remarkable. …

[I]n the early 1950s, Lewis was passed over at Oxford for two prestigious chairs, which appointments many expected him to receive. Some of his friends believed this happened because his colleagues at Oxford “disliked the thought of a professor of English literature winning fame as amateur theologian.” So there was a price to pay for his faith. …

As we consider his amazing influence over these past 50 years, what is it that has made Lewis so appealing to so many?

In C.S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life and Works, Walter Hooper, Lewis’ private secretary, identified four qualities: his vivid and luminous imagination; his clarity combined with his powerful reason; his moral toughness; and his love of God.

That is an accurate description, but there is more. …

There is an infectious relish for the ideas he shares with his readers. When asked why he had written what he did, he responded: “I wrote the books I should have liked to read. No rot about self-expression.” Reading his books, we feel like Lewis is having a conversation with us, talking to us as equals on the same path.

And through the conversation, uplifted.

This entry was posted in Miscellaneous and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.