Thursday, December 17, 2009
Some may think that all of this is merely an illusion life grants us for a short period of reprieve each year. However, what if instead of seeing it as an escape from reality, we see it as the first time we really stop to taste reality each year? What if all this creative wonder and spirit of joy is not an illusion, but a taste of something we ought to be enjoying all year. What if our lives are consumed with an illusion of reality, and Christmas is the time where we allow ourselves to stop and smell the roses?
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
To continue on the theme of chivalry, when I read Lewis’s essay on the topic, I couldn’t help but see beyond what he was saying. I am not sure whether he was thinking in this direction for he did not take his essay there, but I instantly saw something more.
There did not seem to be any disagreements on the point from my previous post that, “A soldier without gentleness would be apt to be barbaric, but a gentleperson without valor may be cowardice.”
Nor was there disagreement that “chivalry is a combination of the hero of great valor on the battle field and the mild mannered noble. For example, Aragorn of Lord of the Rings was both a valiant warrior and a kind gentleman. He was both severe in battle and kind hearted in life.”
We all seemed to agree that chivalry as described is a good and honorable thing. A thing that is neither a brute nor a coward, but a well rounded, just, and good attribute artfully maintained.
The thing that instantly came to mind when reading Lewis’s essay is that chivalrous is a good descriptive word for God. The picture he painted as ideal was that which describes the God of the Bible; the valiant warrior justly upholding all goodness while at the same time kindly and mercifully bringing the way of salvation to all sinners. God is the ultimate King with full qualities of Knighthood.
The reason we admire and have honored the chivalrous is because we see and are drawn by the goodness therein of such a character. We see such people as deserving of honor and knighthood. These people are shining an attribute of God. Chivalry is good, not just because it benefits survival of civilization, but because it mirrors the One who is Good.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
He writes to the naturalist (the one seeing nature as all there is and lacking in real meaning and purpose):
"You can't, except in the lowest animal sense, be in love with a girl if you know (and keep on remembering) that all the beauties both of her person and of her character are a momentary and accidental pattern produced by the collision of atom, and that your own response to them is only a sort of psychic phosphorescence arising from the behaviour of your genes. You can't go on getting very serious pleasure from music if you know and remember that its air of significance is a pure illusion, that you only like it because your nervous system is irrationally conditioned to like it."
He also writes that "If Nature when full known seems to teach us (that is, if the sciences teach us) that our minds are chance arrangements of atoms, then there must have been some mistake; for if that were so, then sciences themselves would be chance arrangements of atoms and we should have no reason for believing in them."
Moreover he writes, "All Naturalism leads us to this in the end- to quite final and hopeless discord between what our minds claim to be and what they really must be if Naturalism is true."
Naturalist must either choose to live in accordance with their philosophy and accept the meaninglessness of all our experiences, or meaninglessness must be rejected and life lived contrary to that reality. If the latter is possible, and more desirable, could it be that the latter has more merit because it it closer to the truth than the former?
Lewis opines that, "the very ground on which we defy Nature crumbles under our feet. The standard we are applying is tainted at the source. If our standards are derived from this meaningless universe they must be as meaningless as it." Thus we have not escaped into something better for better has no meaning for as Peter Kreeft writes "without an unchanging goal you cannot judge any change as progress. So you can have no hope."
If there is nothing unchanging by which to anchor our standard of life then there is no progress made no matter what way we chose to live, nothing gets in reality any better for all semblance of "better" is a mirage. But there is hope, one can give up the mirage of "better" for the authentic "better" which is eternally rooted outside nature.
Excerpts are from "On Living in an Atomic Age" an essay by C.S. Lewis reprinted in Present Concerns edited by Walter Hooper
Friday, December 4, 2009
I found a book of essays by C.S. Lewis in an old antique mall while I was visiting family for Thanksgiving. The same evening I cracked open the book to read the introduction as I was not previously aware this book even existed. Even though I am already in the middle of two books, I found myself reading the first essay entitled The Necessity of Chivalry and was quickly drawn in for a good read.
In this short essay Lewis talks about the development of the knight of the Middle Ages. He explained that chivalry was a combination of the hero of great valor on the battle field and the mild mannered noble. For example, Aragorn of Lord of the Rings was both a valiant warrior and a kind gentleman. He was both severe in battle and kind hearted in life. He is depicted both in the books and the movies as a mysterious fellow and yet noble and kingly. The mystery was in his knightly character while appearing as a lone traveler.
Lewis eloquently writes, “The man who combines both characters—the knight—is a work not of nature but of art; of that art which has human beings, instead of canvas or marble, for its medium.”
He begins to analyze the culture that would say that softness is preferable over severity and finds that mellowness alone is not as virtuous as a proper usage of both severity and gentleness artfully employed. It is a virtuous art to be a good combination of both characteristics. A soldier without gentleness would be apt to be barbaric, but a gentleperson without valor may be cowardice.
Lewis puts it this way, “The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely to be a milksop.”
Chivalry, Lewis argues, brings about the merging of two valiant characteristics that if left separate would only amount to brutes or softies. There is something good in the warrior and in the gentleman and both are necessary to cultivate. This is not to say in our culture that most people will face an actual battle or face some enemy. However, we all identify with those in the stories we read or watch who do face such adversity.
Modern civilized society has not done much to cultivate the knight outside of those who are members of the military. It seems that chivalry ought not be left in the middle ages and ought to be resurrected in our day.
While chivalry is historically a term applied to knightly men, this post is not exclusive of women. Most everyone has at least some desire to be a hero or heroine of an adventure no matter how stifled and dormant that desire has become. I think it ideal for a culture to cultivate such people. Reading the stories of the knights of old or modern stories that encapsulate these values can bring to life those dormant desires and allow one to begin to grow into such a knightly person.
Quotes from Present Concerns Essays be C.S. Lewis edited by Walter Hooper