(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)
Whenever reading Lewis’ nonfiction, I can’t help but think of his life experiences up until that point. This book, written a few years before he passed away, had plenty of experience to base his study on. It never fails to captivate me. I admit, I felt like I was googling some reference Lewis made every other page. There were also a few “I’m going to have to re-read that page because I’m not quite sure what I just read” moments.
This is one of those books though, you could read 100 times and still discover something new with each read. Can we are take a moment to appreciate that Lewis referred to himself as an “oldster” and used Jane Austen as examples? Alright, now onto a discussion which I hope won’t just turn into 97,000 quotes…. : )
I thought the “Likings and Loves for the sub-human” was an interesting section on the other things we humans can “love.” From his discussion of the dangers of patriotism (no doubt from his experience and living through two World Wars) to his thoughts of nature, especially this one:
“Nature never taught me that there exists a God of Glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see how the “fear” of God could have ever meant to me anything but the lowest prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and unapproachable crags. And if nature had never awakened certain longings in me, huge areas of what I can now mean by the “love” of God would never, so far as I can see, existed.”
How easy it is for humans to turn something good into an idol? “We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons….Love becomes a demon when it becomes a god.”
He’s been bringing it since 1898.
So this doesn’t once again turn into dissertation status, here’s a couple thoughts and quotes from each of the Four Loves:
I took this one to be the easiest to come by and basic, but not in a “not as important as the others” way either. Each of the other loves has Affection as a part of them as well.
“Affection is the humblest love.”
“Affection opens our eyes to goodness we could not have seen, or should not have appreciated without it.”
This will be hard to keep short. I don’t think it was by mistake the section on Friendship is the longest. This too can also be a part of the other loves and is so vital for life. (Sidenote: Did anyone else need to look up his examples of friendship? Folks like Pylades & Orestes, Roland and Oliver, Amis and Amile? Wiki and I hung out a lot reading this book).
Some of my favorite Lewis quotes come from this section as well:
“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like are, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
His description and discussion of friendship was insightful (i.e. how friendship can be used for evil when it involves folks who are criminals) and so thought-provoking.
Then this. Way to make me get teary-eyed Jack. “But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work…The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others….they are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by His through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us now reckon without our Host.”
This section didn’t hit me as much as Friendship, but I think Lewis was spot on, on so many levels. It’s about the other person. That’s what makes Eros so beautiful and vulnerable.
“Eros wants the Beloved.”
“Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give.”
Lewis doesn’t hold back on the dangers of idolising Eros either, while also recognizing its “grandeur and terror.”
“We must not give unconditional obedience to the voice of Eros when he speaks most like a god. Neither must we ignore or attempt to deny the god-like quality. This love is really and truly like Love Himself.”
Well. This section has one of my all-time favorite quotes…EVER:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
THIS. “Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as He way in which they should break, so be it.”
He was also a fan of keeping the truth simple:
“God is love.” Amen Jack. Amen!
Discussion time! Keeping it pretty simple, so please feel free to answer any or all.
1. Was there one discussion that stuck out to you more (of the Four Loves)?
As I mentioned, for me it was definitely the section of Friendship, but there were also several tidbits that packed a punch in the Charity chapter.
2. I always love reading the quotes that spoke to people, so please feel free to share any that hit home for you. I admit, I have at least another page of quotes, but I’ll save them for another day : ).
3. Please include any other thoughts or insight!
I don’t know if this was his intent, but Lewis had me chuckling quite a bit. Especially with some of his descriptions of people, like referring to one of his students as a “not so nice Rodent.” Or the time he compared humans to donkeys? “Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey.” Then there was also his warning about his closing thoughts on Charity: “Take it as one man’s reverie, almost one man’s myth: If anything in it is useful to you, use it; if anything is not, never give it a second thought.”
Looking forward to hearing from y’all!