CS Lewis and I: An IndioHistorian Tribute to the man
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
My first encounter with the British writer C.S. Lewis was when I was in high school. I used to go to a Christian school in Quezon City and so all the Evangelical stuff was nothing new to me, until Lewis. I was given an opportunity to watch a play by the Filipino theater group Trumpets entitled “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” It was about this icy witch, who ruled a once beautiful fantasy world called Narnia, whom the Witch turned into a winter land where “it’s always winter, and never Christmas.” I literally cried like a baby that day, and I have resolved to read all the seven Narnia books (LWW was the 2nd of 7). Everything I am: my incessant love for cats, the names of my gadgets, my journey in the world of Speculative Fiction that has never stopped, my love for Science Fiction and Fantasy, of history and philosophy, was all because of C.S. Lewis. Narnia was just a tip of the iceberg for me.
I learned later on through his biographies (I have three in my library) that he was a Medieval Literature professor, a poet, a friend of JRR Tolkien (his best friend in fact), a very prolific writer and pioneer of the genre of Modern Fantasy, and yes, a sore thumb among all the famous writers of the 20th century—for he was also a good theologian. It was he who inspired me to want to pursue a career in the academe, to immerse myself in good literature, in philosophy, and in the depths of theology. He was so good at it to me that he indeed went past my ‘watchful dragons.’ Here’s the complete quote of the reference:
“I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.”
I have not only read his Narnia books, I went “further in.” I read of his character (inspired by Tolkien) named Ransom in Lewis’ Sci-Fi work The Space Trilogy, the unraveling of what the Silent Planet’s identity really was. I went further, through Screwtape Letters, a disturbing correspondence of two demons, to Lewis’ Problem of Pain. When I was depressed, I would read his A Grief Observed, that Lewis wrote after his wife died. It begins with his famous line that still makes me teary-eyed:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”
It’s his “map of sorrow” and every time I read the lines I feel that across time and distance, someone, (aside from God, of course) really, REALLY understands me.
His commentaries on The Weight of Glory, and Abolition of Man, is a critique on modernism and the joy one should have. Lewis taught me a German word with no English equivalent, that I would feel in my own life and in his writings—Sehnsucht—that “inconsolable longing” for “you know not what,” that hole in your being that only God can fill.
Just as my college life was coming to a close, nothing would prepare me for the Lewis book that I would read, that many friends of mine would always say was his masterpiece. Indeed it was! It was his book entitled Till We Have Faces. It’s Lewis’ version of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche through the eyes of Psyche’s sister, Lewis would name Orual. After finishing that book one afternoon, I was dazed until evening. I couldn’t get over it.
Lewis is something to most people but to me, he was an inspiration. I always marvel at how God would invent such a person as C.S. Lewis. He once said “Reason is the order of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.” That remains true to me as it was when I first read that line from him.
So to ‘Jack,’ or Clive Staples (he hated his real name), thank you for the hidden attics, mysterious worlds, glimmering Truths and the life that was you.
Lewis was not perfect, but his was a life that’s an arrow pointing to that inconsolable longing, our fount of joy and supreme completeness: Jesus Himself.
Celebrating CS Lewis’ 50th anniversary of his “entry” into the Real Narnia on November 22, 1963, “where every chapter is better than the one before.”