Monday, March 5, 2007

C.S. Lewis and my Lenten "non-discipline"

When it comes to the Lenten season, I'm usually not one to embark on suddenly strict regimens in which I deny myself alcohol, sex, or fattening desserts. Nor will I likely assume the mantle of prayerful penitent, spending that period between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in daily meditation, soliciting God for the forgiveness of my sins. Nevertheless, I often try to turn my reading to matters spiritual during this period. I take Lent as a break from my normal reading routine, which is usually punctuated by tomes of history, sociology, and even the sciences. Last year, for example, I took Lent to march through a book recommended by a friend. The Buddha in Your Mirror represented a stark - and welcome - departure from the usual Christianity-focused efforts. But for several years - excluding the last - I've turned to C.S. Lewis, the great 20th century champion for an intellectually-based Christianity, and I enjoyed thoroughly God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics and Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life.

So this year it's a biography of Lewis by a professor from Wheaton College, the repository for Lewis's papers. The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis promises to be a dense but enjoyable read. Indeed, within the first few pages I was struck by a passage which resonates so thoroughly with the core of who I am, I have to share it.

"My happiest hours are spent with three or four old friends
in old clothes tramping together and putting up in small
pubs - or else sitting up till the small hours in someone's
college rooms talking nonsense, poetry, theology,
metaphysics over beer, tea, and pipes."

Having spent many hours in one of Lewis's favorite Oxford pubs - a darkly ancient, ghost-inhabited pub likewise frequented by Lewis's friend Tolkein - I understand his sentiments. And having experienced that academic or intellectual camaraderie during my years as a historian, I agree passionately with his observation. Those indeed are some of "my happiest hours" and I wish they weren't quite so rare.

1 comment:

One Wink at a Time said...

Very interesting post. Some of my best times have been just hanging out sharing a brew or two with people I care about exchanging ideas with lots of laughter, emotion and reminiscing.