excessive tedium exposed.

I’ve been reading a little C. S. Lewis lately. Today I read the November 1st and 2nd entries from “A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works.” He’s a tough read. I may have mentioned before that I respond to his writing in a number of different ways.

Sometimes, I think he’s a pompous windbag who delights in using words the common man (that’d be me) has to look up in a very old dictionary because the newer dictionaries have already stopped including said words due to lack of use. (This is why I sometimes refer to him as “Jack,” as his friends called him. It reminds me that he’s just a guy and that I need to take what he says with a grain of salt, as the saying goes.)

Sometimes I have to read a phrase or a sentence or an entire paragraph multiple times before I have half a clue what the man is trying to say.

Sometimes I understand immediately what he’s saying and I adamantly disagree.

So why read him?

Because when the man DOES make a point with me, it often resonates. He sometimes states something so succinctly that it hits the core of my belief in a certain area. Thankfully, those moments occur more often than the windbag, re-read and adamantly disagree moments.

One book that consistently hits home is a small work of fiction entitled “The Screwtape Letters.” It’s a series of letters from an older demon (Uncle Screwtape) to a younger demon (Wormwood), advising him on how to bring about the downfall of the human (the patient) to whom the younger demon has been assigned. It’s a backward concept for the Christian reader, especially when Lewis consistently refers to God as the “Enemy.” His assessment of human nature and temptation makes me think. Case in point:

When the patient repents, Screwtape outlines Wormwood’s blunders:

“…you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there – a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words, you allowed him two real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as not to see the danger in this? …

…you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony and expensive tedium as pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn’t you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value?

And that sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all? That it would peel off from his sensibility the kind of crust you have been forming on it, and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself?

As a preliminary to detaching himself from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from himself, and had made some progress in doing so. Now, all that is undone.

…the man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books.”

I get it. Thanks, Jack.

Have you read something interesting you want to share? I want to read it! If you post about it, link up in comments – or just post your quote in a comment. Check out other book quotes I’ve posted by perusing my “therefore I quote” tag.

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