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CS Lewis: The Narnian

The fact that I like humans, and humanity, causes me to read biography (http://www.swaimchiropractic.com/harry-truman/ and http://www.swaimchiropractic.com/a-good-read/ ) more often than not.  So when my friend Jon Fristad recommended a book about CS Lewis, I bought it.   I have confessed before to being a slow reader, and this book put “slow” into a whole new category.  Partly because I am usually reading several books at one time (which isn’t a good idea) under the mistaken notion that I can multitask and partly because the ideas presented were challenging.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book is called The Narnian, written by Alan Jacobs, an English professor, then at Wheaton University and now at Baylor University.  The book can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Narnian-Life-Imagination-C-Lewis/dp/0061448729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490630723&sr=8-1&keywords=the+narnian+alan+jacobs

Much about Lewis’s life is known to those that have enjoyed Lewis’s work. His mother died when he was young. Jack, as Lewis renamed himself at 3 years of age,  lived in a large house full of books in Belfast and was often alone, which he seemed to revel in. He didn’t fare well in the English school system, ending up with private tutors, one that gave him a rational defense for atheism. He fought in WWI, was injured, and came home. He finished school at Oxford and became a tutor in the English department. Thereafter, through a series of having to abandon certain objections to Christianity, he subsequently converted; his actual conversion was rather uneventful too. He had a wide circle of friends, and a rather remarkable ability to work under pressure and with multiple distractions.  He was extremely productive.

So much has been written about Lewis’s spiritual journey.  For me, however, Jacobs brought to life the material Lewis.  He was the man who enjoyed the world around him; the man who enjoyed people.  Lewis enjoyed adult beverages, pubs, and smoked regularly. He loved walks in the woods and the sound of “adult male laughter” by a fire.  He was generous to a fault and had many financial difficulties along the way. Lewis married late in life.  Before his conversion to Christianity he craved recognition, his ambition was limitless, he was secretly drawn to the occult and the “secret knowledge.” He was real. He wrestled with life and his sinful nature.

His humanity comes shining through in Jacobs’ account.

Here are a few highlights from the book, and there are many:

Lewis, “There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God.  God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature.  That is why he uses material things, like bread and wine to put the new life back into us. We many think this rather crude and unspiritual.  God does not. He invented eating.  He likes matter.  He invented it.”

“Is there any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”

On one of his favorite pleasures: “the peaceful irresponsibility of mild illness” (He could then read as long as he liked, uninterrupted).

And on writing, “However, cheer up, and whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found long ago.”   (It is interesting to note that Lewis never learned how to type; he used a pen and ink bottle, writing about 6 words at a time. Given his production, this is unbelievable to me as I write on a word processor.)

And one of his most famous, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”

Laced throughout his writing after his conversion are the ideas of joy, and pleasure and desire.  Leave it to Lewis to connect the material and the spiritual so well.

I highly recommend this book.  Thanks Jon.

If you have more insight on Lewis and his work please share here.

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