Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting to Know Jack....

There is no introduction in the book by C.S. Lewis "A Grief Observed"-- not the version I read--there was only an Afterward, written by a colleague. I opened it expecting an explanation of what I was about to read. Instead, and before I realized it, I was reading the personal notes of a man who had recently suffered the loss of a loved one. I pieced together, while reading the first pages of the book, that "H" had been his wife. I didn't know how she died for another several pages.

It's a relatively short read. I'm a slow reader, but I believe I finished it in about two hours and change, and this includes re-reading several thoughts that caught my attention. Here are some of those thoughts.

C.S. Points out something that I have noted several times before when he says
  • "Where is God? ...When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be--or so it feels-- welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other hope is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. After that, silence."

Prior to reading this, I had reasoned that God was not an intervening god. I couldn't ever really come to the conclusion that God doesn't exist. But, as far as God having a plan for us individually, I had decided that the concept of "blessings" and "trials" was the same as the idea of "good luck" and "bad luck"--something to explain away fortunes and misfortunes.

As I read this, my thoughts were this "God doesn't pour out blessings, nor does he withhold his love. Because God doesn't have a hand in our day-to-day lives." I read on, but something made me wonder how this man-- who had already impressed me with his introspection and self-honesty in two simple pages of prose-- had not considered this fact himself. Or that if he had, he was able to answer it with some better knowledge or experience. I was eager to give the benefit of the doubt*.

Another passage that spoke to me.

  • Bridge players tell me that there must be some money on the game 'or else people won't take it seriously.' Apparently it's like that. Your bid--for God or no God, For a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity--will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpence, but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man--or at any rate a man like me-- out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.

This passage goes hand in hand with the first. I began to realize though, that I had never felt a desperation to know God. At most, I had felt a frustration at not knowing God. But I had only ever half-heartedly looked inside myself as a possible cause.

Mr. Lewis' writing was so unforgiving, so penetrating and honest. I began to wonder if I had ever really pondered truth, or only considered those things that I want most to believe. I have always taken a certain sense of pride in being able to analyze my thoughts and actions, but reading this book was showing me how very little soul searching I had really done. I was beginning to be really excited to consider the questions he raised to himself but then, suddenly, the book ended. I started straight into the Afterward written by Chad Walsh, a fan who became a colleague and friend of C.S. Lewis.

The afterward was nearly as long as the book itself, which is why I was so surprised when it ended, I had thought I was only 2/3 into it. The afterward briefly explains the nature of his relationship to the Author, and his wife. He then begins to describe their relationship, which answered some curiosities I had while reading the notes. But the most interesting part, was learning about C.S. Lewis' life and experiences. He had been raised Christian, become Atheist, and become reconverted to Christianity. I had gathered in the book that he had had his struggles with faith, but learning that he had entirely left and returned was very intriguing to me.

I really wanted to read more of his work, and I recalled that I had seen another of his books in the music room downstairs!

*I don't know how better to phrase this. But '"giving" someone the "benefit" of the doubt' just doesn't articulate my new perspective. After reading Bonds That Make Us Free, I use the term "giving the benefit of the doubt" to mean 'having the willingness to allow myself to realize the truth about someone.' there's no "benefit" to the individual in question that I can "give" them... the solution then, is not to question the individual in the first place. And that is something I can do for myself.

Thanks for reading, more later.



Vero Awesome said...

OMG I LOVE this. I've so missed your introspection and almost brutal self honesty.

That reminds me, have you finished re-shooting the LARP film sans moi? That would be horribly tragic.

Vero Awesome said...

PS - Your picture looks exactly like this homeless beatnik guy I used to know when I lived in Oregon.

You can take that however you want. ;)

Linda Hyde said...

Yeah, I love A Grief Observed. I know you've also read The Great Divorce and Screwtape Letters, right? Now how about Mere Christianity. It's awesome