Monday, October 21, 2013

highlights from the letters of CS Lewis

Last week I told you about CS Lewis' letters to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves. Here are some brief excerpts.
Whatever you do, never allow yourself to get a neuroses...But it can be avoided. Keep clear of introspection, of brooding, of spiritualism, of everything eccentric. Keep to work and sanity and open air - to the cheerful and the matter of fact side of things. We hold our mental health by a thread: and nothing is worth risking it for. Above all beware of excessive dreaming, of seeing yourself in the centre of a drama, of self pity, and, as far as possible, of fears. (1923)

Beware of holidays. ... I speak feelingly for, having felt it my duty to drop work here and devote myself entirely to holidaying with the others (heaven knows I did it for the best) I am at present suffering from all the spiritual consequences of idleness. (April 1930, 348)

It was horrid to be in a city again. As Field said 'After training ourselves for the last few days to notice everything we have now to train ourselves to notice nothing.' (29/4/30, 353)

I felt that sort of melancholy which comes from going through the same scenes through which you walked with a friend ... Mixed with this melancholy, however, there was the freshness of solitude which itself feels like a friend revisited. (1/6/30, 354)

Now that [my brother] is with us I don't get enough solitude: or so I say to myself in excuse, knowing all the time that what God demands is our solution of the problem set, not of some other problem which he ought to have set: and that what we call hindrances are really the raw material of spiritual life. (24/12/30, 398)

It has done me good to be with him: because while his idea of the good is much lower than mine, he is in so many ways better than I am. I keep on crawling up to the heights and slipping back to the depths: he seems to do neither. There always have been these two types. (10/1/31, 401)

I suppose that when one hears a tale of hideous cruelty anger is quite the wrong reaction, and merely wastes the energy that ought to go in a different direction: perhaps merely dulls the conscience which, if it were awake, would ask us 'Well? What are you doing about it?' (17/1/31, 404)

Delight is a bell that rings as you set your foot on the first step of a new flight of stairs leading upwards. Once you have started climbing you will notice only the hard work: it is when you have reached the landing and catch sight of the new stair that you may expect the bell again. (8/11/31 430)

I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion - which raises its head in every temptation - that there is something else than God - some other country into which He forbids us to trespass - some kind of delight which He 'doesn't appreciate' or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn't there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as He can, or else a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. (12/9/33, 465)

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own', or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - the life God is sending one day by day. (20/12/43 499)

Don't imagine I doubt for a moment that what God sends us must be sent in love and will all be for the best if we have grace to use it so. My mind doesn't waver on that point: my feelings sometimes do. (2/7/49, 514)

Perhaps it is a good thing that troubles never come singly. Any one of my present woes would possibly affect me more if it was the only one. At any rate, when life gets very bad (do you find?) a sort of anaesthesia sets in. There is at least a mercy in being always tired: it takes the edge off things. (21/8/57, 544)

If only you and I (or you or I) doesn't go and die before we have a chance to meet! And yet, if we did no doubt there would be some good and loving reason for it. I am (except in bad moods) more convinced of that all the time. We shall meet and be happy together if it is good for us: otherwise not. (5/1/47, 509)
They did meet again. But the final letter in the book, written during his final illness, when his alcoholic brother had "quite deserted" him, makes me cry:
Though I am by no means unhappy I can't help feeling it was rather a pity I did revive in July. I mean, having been glided so painlessly up to the Gate it seems hard to have it shut in one's face and know that the whole process must some day be gone through again, and perhaps far less pleasantly! Poor Lazarus! But God knows best.

I am glad you are fairly well. But oh, Arthur, never to see you again! ... (11/9/63)

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