Sunday, March 10, 2024

"Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice"

Douglas Murray's choice this week in his series, "Things Worth Remembering," is a sermon delivered by C.S. Lewis soon after the outbreak of World War II:
When I was at Oxford, I met the actor Robert Hardy, who told me that, as an undergraduate, he was fortunate enough to have had Tolkien as his tutor in Anglo-Saxon literature and C.S. Lewis as his tutor in Medieval English.

Both men became most famous for creating their own fantasy worlds—Tolkien with the Middle Earth of The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis with his Chronicles of Narnia series, which are often thought of as children’s books, but which are much more than that. ....

Lewis was not only a writer of scholarly books and popular fiction. He was also, perhaps, the foremost Christian apologist of the mid-twentieth century. His books and lectures—Fern-Seed and Elephants is a very good place to start—did something that very few people can do today.

Most professors, not least of literature, have no interest in communicating with a wide audience. They play games for other people in their field. They also seem to take exceptionally obvious or untrue ideas and try to spin them out in a way that makes really rather banal observations seem infinitely more complex than they are.

Lewis had the opposite skill—a real skill—which was to distill a lifetime’s learning and make complex and deep ideas not just understandable but relatable. ....
The selection that Murray has chosen is from a sermon Lewis delivered in 1939, “Learning in Wartime.”   Murray:
It is a profoundly important message. Essentially, it is this: do not put off what you have to do in your life until the times are optimal. Because they never were optimal, and they never will be.

Human life, he notes, was always filled with distractions, alarms, panics, and tragedy. That is not what makes it remarkable. What makes life remarkable is that we get on with what we have to do in spite of these things. Alone among the creatures, we have the capability to understand the world around us and to have some sense of where it might be going. That could push us into despair and despondency. But the history of mankind is not that. It is that we did and do remarkable things, in spite of such knowledge. .... (more)

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