Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The surest way to avoid irrelevance

Bruce Edwards explains some of the reasons C.S. Lewis ("Jack") remains popular and read almost half a century after his death:
.... [W]e are led to believe that Jack is fussily anachronistic in themes; his metaphors hopelessly daunting, and dated when they’re not; his supernaturalist faith a stern impediment for the un- or de-churched; his vocabulary well beyond the reach of the unschooled; or, paradoxically, embarrassingly concrete and un-theoretical for the academician.

As it happens, none of these deficits turn out to register as flaws among Jack’s actual readers....

Jack’s anachronism is not a pose but a principle; since “all things not eternal” are “eternally out of date,” and the surest way to avoid irrelevance is not to be avant-garde, ahead of the trends, but not to worry about it one way or another, and to take the calendar and the polls out of the equation right from the start.

The questions that arise when confronting the central point of one of Jack’s essays or novels or sermons is never, “Is this old?” but always, “Is it so?” Of course, the truths he foregrounds are neither old nor new; they’re timeless. For Jack’s words are predicated upon the notion that while our through a glass darkly understandings may grow or wane within a particular generation or civilization, human nature—our tendencies and propensities for good or evil, our predicaments and aspirations—are well documented, and transcend the particular eras in which we find ourselves situated. ....

The important thing for him to convey was not that certain ideas were “his” in some ego-driven possessive campaign for attention, but that the ideas he articulated and promoted belonged to everyone for all time, and were in danger of being drowned out “by the microphone of his age.”

His defense of the public square included exorcism of the “chronological snobbery” that prevented earnest seekers from hearing News from Home. Jack believed in what G. K. Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead,” the ability of wise men and women of all periods to speak to the present. .... (more)
C. S. Lewis Blog: Jack the Blogger?

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