First of all if you’re going to waste your time reading what I have to say I’m going to ask you to read this first: Mt 13:18-23
“In the Heat of Composition I find that I have Inadvertently Allowed Myself to Assume the Form of a Large Centipede”
I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I began reading it because it jumped out at me while I was in the library looking for a hard copy of Anna Karenina to replace the more portable electronic version after my ipod experienced an unpleasant encounter with the pavement.
While I waited for someone to move out of the QRSTUVs I scanned the LMNOPs. The name “C.S. Lewis” caught my eye. There were a couple of his books there including Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and of course, The Screwtape Letters. I hadn’t read any of them and I thought to myself “for someone who spends as much time looking for Narnia and claiming to be a Narnian as you do you certainly don’t know an awful lot about C.S. Lewis. What is this collection of letters he wrote and what is a screwtape? Did they come before 8-track tapes?”
I pulled the book out and saw the sculpture on the front cover. I found it simultaneously dull and creepy. I slid the book back into place and went off to find Anna. After all she’d been in crisis when my ipod met its demise and I was eager to see how things had worked out for her while I was gone. For some reason though when I walked again by the LMNOPs I pulled out The Screwtape Letters and took it with me.
The next time I became frustrated with Anna’s behavior I took this odd collection of letters outside with me. I skipped the preface as I always do because it reminds me too much of reading the instructions before beginning a task. I began reading. Stopped. Went back to the beginning. Stopped. Conceded to reading the preface. Oh! It’s a satire! and I am an idiot.
Understanding what I was reading made it much more enjoyable. The entire work is tremendously clever. Parts of it were rather funny is a slightly twisted way. I suppose sin should not be funny but the way human tendencies were described though the eyes of something not human and not good were amusing. I found this observation especially amusing:
“When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this easily managed.”
Other quotes like these two made me feel a sort of disappointment a how easily the human mind can be perverted:
“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.”
“You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to him employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which h allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.”
I enjoyed the collection though, almost until the end but near the end I found myself wondering if writing like this took a toll on Lewis. He said himself, through Screwtape that you become what you pretend to be. I wonder if that statement concerned him as the ink rolled of his pen did he worry that maybe writing 31 letters under the pen name of a demon wasn’t going to leave him unchanged?
Then I thought to myself “maybe reading 31 letters of correspondence between demons won’t leave me unchanged.” And it won’t. Nothing I read, write, or watch on TV is going to leave me unchanged. I’m human and I was made to take things in that I see and hear and think about them and form opinions. To say that what I read won’t alter my brain is like saying what I eat won’t alter my body. (Ironically, I’m currently eating cake and drinking wine.) Now I don’t think that reading C.S. Lewis was bad for me. I n fact I think it was a good thing but it does make me question other things I watch on TV and read online and in books.
I keep seeing all these “shocking statistics” on the internet on what porn does to your brain. This just in! A diet of french fries, Twinkies and soda will make you fat! I’m not sure why it’s such a shocker. Porn is a total perversion of human sexuality. Of course it’s going to mess with your head. Whatever. I guess people will continue forever to be surprised that the things that are bad for your soul can also be bad for your body. I’m not saying that I’m one of those people who goes around condemning people for reading the Harry Potter series either. I really liked those books and I think everyone should read what they want to read. I just think that consuming literature and film that has compromising moral integrity day after day and year after year without examining your conscience from time to time or without having a formed conscience is going to be detrimental in the end. That’s why there’s a rating system on movies. Not because violence is bad for kids but okay for adults but because supposedly the adults have had a chance to form their conscience where children have not. I don’t know if that’s true anymore though. I don’t meet a lot of people who believe in sin anymore. How can you form your conscience without it? We all need a little cricket to sit on our shoulders until the blue fairy brings back morality and makes us believe we are real again. First though don’t we have to spend three days in the belly of a whale? Do we need a sign or was the sign of Jonah enough?
Aaaaand I just realized that I’m going to have to rewatch Pinocchio.