Wednesday, December 21, 2005

C. S. LEWIS’S NIGHTMARE LIFE

You all now know who C. S. Lewis is. He’s the dead Christian whose children’s literature, just like his friend Tolkien, is being made into “The Chronicles of Narnia”, the Disney movie, and Disney is a fitting place for such fantasy to be produced. It’s going to be an interesting film because some very smart and creative people are turning Mr. Lewis’s work into film. Andrew Adamson (Shrek’s director) will make sure that there is a lot more action than the one page battle description Lewis’s book gives us and according to US NEWS’s report, the director has made sure that the “one dimensional” characters Lewis gave us will be puffed out into real people. They’ll become more “humanistic” to be exact.

That’s one of the lessons I took a long time learning in my own literary studies. Real people are not “one dimensional”, but you can’t expect a moralist to give you anything more than one dimensional characters because he always keeps his characters under control so that he can make them puppets for his moralizing. He makes them represent traits rather than complex human things. All moralistic fiction is false fiction. Other, more modern, writers will tell you that sometimes their characters run away with them and take over their own fictional lives. That’s why realistic fiction is richer and reveals deeper and more complex human beings than false, moralistic fiction.

There’s no doubt that C. S. Lewis is about as dysfunctional as a Christian can be and that’s giving him a lot of room to run in. I tried to read his MERE CHRISTIANITY a decade back and when I saw that it was just the usual reasonless reason that reason yields all of us when unguided by scientific methodology or skeptical distrust, I put it down without finishing. His major claim is that Jesus was either a mad man or he must be the son of some god or other. What kind of argument is that? It’s no argument at all and only a fool would base a belief on such an empty piece of sophistry as that, yet Christians are always trying to get atheists to read that book. So. . . ? What is it for you? As for me, I respond “madman”! Who hasn’t met, while volunteering in mental hospitals that poor deluded man or woman who thinks they are god, son of god, or the virgin Mary?

In the recent U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT’s report on C. S. Lewis, we discover his deep disfunction:

[OPEN QUOTE] Complicating the story of this remarkable career is Lewis's highly unusual domestic life. As a 20-year-old demobilized war veteran, returned to Oxford's University College to finish his degree, Jack Lewis began living with a woman 25 years his senior, the mother [I’ve read that he called her ‘Mommy’]—married but separated—of a deceased war chum, Paddy Moore. Starting at least partly as a sexual liaison, Lewis's 30-year menage with the witty, domineering, and thoroughly anti religious Janie King Moore (called "Minto") evolved into something more closely resembling a curious mother-son relationship. In this case, as Lewis's friends all saw, the striking oddity was Minto's manner of treating Jack like a slightly addled household servant, subjecting him to a barrage of menial tasks that made his prodigious achievements—from an Oxford triple first degree in philosophy, classics, and English to some 50 books of criticism, apologetics, and fiction to tireless lecturing and broadcasting—seem all the more remarkable. . . .[CLOSE QUOTE]

As a major in the arts of literature, I can tell you we were many a fine fool who was scholar and writer in that field, so for all his honors, that doesn’t necessarily make Lewis anything more than an eccentric, “bookish” fellow (another “elitist”, ironically, of the kind the Bushites hate) who found sustenance in the empty and dying fields of the literary arts. I recall how badly it hurt me when I read somewhere while pursuing my own degrees in English and literature that all genius had fled the arts because the truest and most powerful poetry was in the scientific view of space and time. True, how true.

I can say that I have shared a feeling or two along the lines of Lewis’s feelings, but I worked through them and out of the dysfunction in which he remained stuck. For example, I do know what it is to feel that I know more about true taste than the next man. See below:

[OPEN QUOTE] Lewis, always a precocious reader, discovered that he was one of the rare students possessed of real aesthetic sense—"good taste," as he more simply put it. Arrival at that knowledge, he wrote, "involves a kind of Fall. The moment good taste knows itself, some of its goodness is lost. Even then, however, it is not necessary to take the further downward step of despising the 'philistines,' who do not share it. Unfortunately I took it." To separate oneself from run-of-the-mill humanity was, for Lewis, the beginning of self-idolatry, the real sin of pride. And such self-worship, he believed, was also the prevailing vice of the modern world. [CLOSE QUOTE] Page 49.

I also fall into a hatred for the American philistines which are the Bushes of the country. I’m sure Lewis, much like Rove whose intelligence Bush undermines when he calls him “Turd blossom”, would find himself enthralled to the Busher, a definite philistine. For me, the answer to my arrogance which Lewis correctly diagnosed for himself, was in telling myself that what I believe is only an opinion but an opinion which is well-informed and an opinion which should remain open to new evidence. Lewis, however, from the looks of it, could not surrender the “authoritarian voice” in his head which demanded that there be but one correct answer to his search. Thus his surrender to Christianity. That’s the “real intellectual pride” in his mental stance that Lewis could not see or surrender. He could not realize that scientific truths are relative and temporary. He could not truly surrender his pride of intellect that made him find an authoritarian unambiguous answer to his dilemma. Here’s more similarities below:

[OPEN QUOTE] Give some credit to the arguments of his devoutly Roman Catholic friend Tolkien as well as to the writings of G. K. Chesterton. But there was also his own intensive reading of medieval literature, which immersed him in a world view in which the foundation of knowledge and truth is faith in a transcendent spiritual reality. Add to this his attraction to the Platonic idea that all true knowledge is remembering and that the object of this remembering is the realm of the ideal forms behind the world of appearances. Even after he became a Christian, Lewis would insist that all religions share with Platonism an appreciation of higher, absolute truth—the Tao, he called it, using the Chinese word for the "way"—and that all equally reject the relativism embedded in so much modern ethical thought. [CLOSE QUOTE] Page 49.

For awhile, I accepted Platonism. That’s what Thomistic philosophy taught me at the University of Dayton, a Catholic university where I was an undergraduate. I also hunted for simple, one-dimensional answers to life’s problems, demanding answers that everyone must OBEY! The problem is that if one is just humanly honest, he discovers that nobody has the one answer that fits all situations. He finds out that to imagine only one answer makes one pushy and implacable. He finds he is arrogant to think that only one answer exists. One is eventually humbled and defeated by the search and surrenders and becomes human, weak and defeatable. You can see that Bush is no humanist. You can see where Bush is stuck in his arrogance.

Finally, here’s the key to Tolkien’s, Lewis’s, all Christianity’s incessant unhappiness through which they bring so much misery into the world for the rest of us few realists.

[OPEN QUOTE] Above all, though, it was probably Lewis's commitment to finding "joy"—a state he had fleetingly experienced at various times in his life, sometimes when coming upon powerful lines of poetry— that brought him the final distance to faith. To Lewis, joy was different from pleasure or happiness, being, in his words, "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction." Pursuit of joy was the deep constant of his life up until 1929, when he realized that all his strivings were vain efforts to find its real source, which he had until then resisted with all of his intellectual and emotional resources. But then the man who wanted "to call my soul my own" could no longer: 'You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet." And the night he finally submitted, Lewis felt himself to be "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." [CLOSE QUOTE]

I know that feeling too. I felt it many a time when I came across a beautiful passage of writing, and I wanted to create things as beautiful as that passage or line of poetry I was reading. It was a painful, lovely, lonely sensation, a desirable longing for pain. It was, if you see it for what it is, a longing for mortification, for the normal Christian masochism of the fundamentalist. If you read that passage closely, you see that Lewis gave in to his wish for mortification and it made him “the most dejected . . . convert in all England”. You can clearly see the masochism in his relationship with the older woman who humiliated him in every way. You can see it in a man like Rove and his swallowing of crap from Bush. Now who would want to follow the Lewis fellow’s guidance? Too bad for him or for anyone who takes his Christian bait.

For me, that feeling was bound up in my self-defeating alcoholism. Once I got a full recovery from alcoholism, I no longer needed the Narnianistic masochism. Most fundamentalist Christians are still stuck in that masochism. They want to dump the whole American dream into their ego-centered vat of stink and suffering.

1 comment:

pheromone cologne said...

thanks for the infomation