Lewis and Thompson

Don’t you love reading something so true or so beautifully expressed that you simply must re-read it and maybe even write it down so you will come across it again?

Reading the news nowadays provides a series of heartbreaking stories. For example, on the day I am writing this, I came across articles on the proliferation of pornography, the glorification of anorexia, the abject failure of my local area’s public schools, government corruption, and far too many examples of sickening violence. Fortunately for my equilibrium this gem from C.S. Lewis, whose memorable quotes would fill a thick folder, also surfaced.

“Monarchy can easily be debunked, but watch the faces, mark well the debunkers. These are the men whose taproot in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach – men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”

When C.S. Lewis wrote these words in 1943, the world was in a dark and dreary place. Although there were glimmers of light on the horizon, that light would not undo the tragedy of the preceding years or the suffering still ahead before the end of World War II. Stalin’s Gulags, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and more calamities were hovering, too, on the edge of the future.

Today, we see many in power “to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch.” They want us to eat bugs while wasting energy on green hoaxes, and to be so full of despair that we will commit suicide rather than try to build anything. They feed the populace a steady diet of poison and, bit by bit, they don’t feel a need to hide what they are doing as they gain ever more control of the levers of command.

It is reassuring to know that evil was overcome by previous generations. It offers a model for doing so again. Two years before C. S. Lewis published those words I quoted, another brilliant writer, Dorothy Thompson, wrote a piece entitled, Who Goes Nazi? In it, she casts an eye around a room, cataloging different personalities and asking which ones would be susceptible to evil philosophies if they were given the chance. I can think of little literature to share today that will strengthen our spines and fortify our souls other than reading similar stories and essays from the past. “There is nothing new under the sun,” said another wise man, and recognizing patterns in history prepares one to meet today’s manifestation of old evils.

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