A bridge by which I might get back from exile

C.S. Lewis is very possibly the most widely distributed author in our family library. His books grace the children's bookshelf as well as various shelves devoted to theology, poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, non-fic, literature, you name it. There are even a couple of books about him on our biography shelf. If you've read or heard of The Four Loves, then you probably are aware that C.S. Lewis had much to say on the subject of love. He speaks of it eloquently in the book devoted specifically to the topic, but he doesn't limit his message to those willing to plow through pontifications on the topic. He takes the seeds of the same thoughts and scatters them through his novels and his poetry, each seed springing into life through story.

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking though and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl an inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love--a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self imprisoned, only end where I begin.
~"As the Ruin Falls"

Love, not the sweet valentinish sort but rather the petulant and possessive type that masquerades as nobility, runs through many of his writings. The Four Loves instructs, explaining and reasoning with great care. Till We Have Faces grips, draws in, and throttles. The poems haunt.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
~"As the Ruin Falls"

The Great Divorce is amongst this crowd, and it is a perfect soapbox for C.S. Lewis' thoughts on the miseries we all bring upon ourselves and others in the name of love and dignity. The story follows a character who finds himself traveling with and observing a group of people faced with the prospect of choosing between misery and joy, a choice complicated by the fact that joy requires sacrificing grudges and glories. I read the book as a teenager and found it rather on the dull side, but it is short, the audiobook a mere two CDs. The plot hasn't changed--it's still on the dull side--but the plot is not the point of the story. It doesn't follow the traditional arc of conflicts leading to conclusion, it is more like a series of vignettes that give a clear picture of the foolishness bound up in our own natural hearts.

"There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy--that is, to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends. Ye call it the Sulks. But in adult life it has a hundred fine names--Achilles' wrath and Coriolanus' grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Proper Pride."

Each picture is, by virtue of its truth, vivid and uncomfortable. How often do I cut off my nose to spite my face, making excuses to lash out at others rather than admit my fears and failures when a gracious word would not only soothe others but myself as well.

And yet there is hope. The self imprisoned, as C.S. Lewis says, are not allowed to blackmail the universe. The name of love might be corrupted and abused, but love itself remains uncontaminated and eventually triumphant for those who embrace it. There is a bridge by which we may get back from exile.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give are more precious than all other gains.
~"As the Ruin Falls"
1 sprinkles of fairy dust:

Wow, this is a great entry, and exactly what I needed to hear.

Now to go dig up Four Loves.