Title: Surprised by Joy. The shape of my early life. Author: Lewis, C. S. [Clive Staples] () Date of first publication: Edition used. Surprised by Joy CS LEWIS. Pages · · MB The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama. Pages·· Surprised by Joy: The shape of my early life Clive Staples Lewis (29 November – 22 November ) was a British PDF (tablet), cresadtgehomual.gq
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i. c. s. lewis and surprised by joy. In his book Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life,6 C. S. Lewis tells the story of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. Lewis wrote Surprised by Joy over a period of seven years ( – ), intending it to adapted from Walter Hooper's “cresadtgehomual.gq: A Companion and Guide”. Permanent Private Hall of the. University of Oxford. SUMMER SCHOOL 22 June Surprised by Joy. Christian themes in C.S. Lewis's writings.
The melting was starting in my back — drip-drip and presently trickle-trickle. I rather disliked the feeling. The fox had been dislodged from Hegelian Wood and was now running in the open, "with all the wo in the world," bedraggled and weary, hounds barely a field behind. Everyone and everything had joined the other side. Even my own pupil Griffiths — now Dom Bede Griffiths — though not yet himself a believer, did his share.
Once, when he and Barfield were lunching in my room, I happened to refer to philosophy as "a subject. Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done.
For of course there had long been an ethic theoretically attached to my Idealism. I thought the business of us finite and half-unreal souls was to multiply the consciousness of Spirit by seeing the world from different positions while yet remaining qualitatively the same Spirit; to be tied to a particular time and place and set of circumstances, yet there to will and think as Spirit itself does.
Frequently bought together
This was hard; for the very act where by Spirit projected souls and a world gave those souls different and competitive interests, so that there was a temptation to selfishness. But I thought each of us had it in his power to discount the emotional perspective produced by his own particular selfhood, just as we discount the optical perspective produced by our position in space.
To prefer my own happiness to my neighbor's was like thinking that the nearest telegraph post was really the largest. The way to recover, and act upon, this universal and objective vision was daily and hourly to remember our true nature, to reascend or return into that Spirit which, in so far as we really were at all, we still were.
Yes; but I now felt I had better try to do it. I faced at last in MacDonald's words "something to be neither more nor less nor other than done. Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.
You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to "know of the doctrine. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds.
My name was legion.
Of course I could do nothing — I could not last out one hour — without continual conscious recourse to what I called Spirit. But the fine, philosophical distinction between this and what ordinary people call "prayer to God" breaks down as soon as you start doing it in earnest. Idealism can be talked, and even felt; it cannot be lived.
It became patently absurd to go on thinking of "Spirit" as either ignorant of, or passive to, my approaches. Even if my own philosophy were true, how could the initiative lie on my side?
My own analogy, as I now first perceived, suggested the opposite: if Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare's doing. Hamlet could initiate nothing. Perhaps, even now, my Absolute Spirit still differed in some way from the God of religion. The real issue was not, or not yet, there. The real terror was that if you seriously believed in even such a "God" or "Spirit" as I admitted, a wholly new situation developed. As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel's, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its grave cloths, and stood upright and became a living presence.
I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer. It might, as I say, still be true that my "Spirit" differed in some way from "the God of popular religion. It sank into utter unimportance. He would not argue about it. Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "man's search for God. The best image of my predicament is the meeting of Mime and Wotan in the first act of Siegfried; hier brauch' ich nicht Sparer noch Spaher, Einsam will ich. I've no use for spies and snoopers.
I would be private. Remember, I had always wanted, above all things, not to be "interfered with. I had always aimed at limited liabilities. The supernatural itself had been to me, first, an illicit dram, and then, as by a drunkard's reaction, nauseous. Even my recent attempt to live my philosophy had secretly I now knew been hedged round by all sorts of reservations.
I had pretty well known that my ideal virtue would never be allowed to lead me into anything intolerably painful; I would be "reasonable. Doubtless, by definition, God was Reason itself. But would He also be "reasonable" in that other, more comfortable sense? Not the slightest assurance on that score was offered me. Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark, were demanded.
The reality with which no treaty can be made was upon me. The demand was not even "All or nothing. Now, the demand was simply "All. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. But then, and quite different from such pleasures, and like a voice from far more distant regions, there came a moment when I idly turned the pages of the book and found the unrhymed translation of Tegner's Drapa and read.
I knew nothing about Balder; but instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote and then, as in the other examples, found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.
The reader who finds these three episodes of no interest need read this book no further, for in a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else. For those who are still disposed to proceed I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences; it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure.
Joy in my sense has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want.
I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.
But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is. I cannot be absolutely sure whether the things I have just been speaking of happened before or after the great loss which befell our family and to which I must now turn.
There came a night when I was ill and crying both with headache and toothache and distressed because my mother did not come to me. That was because she was ill too; and what was odd was that there were several doctors in her room, and voices and comings and goings all over the house and doors shutting and opening.
It seemed to last for hours. And then my father, in tears, came into my room and began to try to convey to my terrified mind things it had never conceived before.
It was in fact cancer and followed the usual course; an operation they operated in the patient's house in those days , an apparent convalescence, a return of the disease, increasing pain, and death. My father never fully recovered from this loss. Children suffer not I think less than their elders, but differently. For us boys the real bereavement had happened before our mother died.
We lost her gradually as she was gradually withdrawn from our life into the hands of nurses and delirium and morphia, and as our whole existence changed into something alien and menacing, as the house became full of strange smells and midnight noises and sinister whispered conversations. This had two further results, one very evil and one very good. It divided us from our father as well as our mother.
They say that a shared sorrow draws people closer together; I can hardly believe that it often has that effect when those who share it are of widely different ages. If I may trust my own experience, the sight of adult misery and adult terror has an effect on children which is merely paralysing and alienating.
Perhaps it was our fault. Perhaps if we had been better children we might have lightened our father's sufferings at this time. We certainly did not. His nerves had never been of the steadiest and his emotions had always been uncontrolled. Under the pressure of anxiety his temper became incalculable; he spoke wildly and acted unjustly. Thus by a peculiar cruelty of fate, during those months the unfortunate man, had he but known it, was really losing his sons as well as his wife.
We were coming, my brother and I, to rely more and more exclusively on each other for all that made life bearable; to have confidence only in each other.
I expect that we or at any rate I were already learning to lie to him. Everything that had made the house a home had failed us; everything except one another. We drew daily closer together that was the good result --two frightened urchins huddled for warmth in a bleak world. Grief in childhood is complicated with many other miseries. I was taken into the bedroom where my mother lay dead; as they said, "to see her", in reality, as I at once knew, "to see it".
There was nothing that a grown-up would call disfigurement--except for that total disfigurement which is death itself. Grief was overwhelmed in terror. To this day I do not know what they mean when they call dead bodies beautiful. The ugliest man alive is an angel of beauty compared with the loveliest of the dead.
Against all the subsequent paraphernalia of coffin, flowers, hearse, and funeral I reacted with horror. I even lectured one of my aunts on the absurdity of mourning clothes in a style which would have seemed to most adults both heartless and precocious; but this was our dear Aunt Annie, my maternal uncle's Canadian wife, a woman almost as sensible and sunny as my mother herself. To my hatred for what I already felt to be all the fuss and flummery of the funeral I may perhaps trace something in me which I now recognise as a defect but which I have never fully overcome--a distaste for all that is public, all that belongs to the collective; a boorish inaptitude for formality.
My mother's death was the occasion of what some but not I might regard as my first religious experience. When her case was pronounced hopeless I remembered what I had been taught; that prayers offered in faith would be granted.
I accordingly set myself to produce by will-power a firm belief that my prayers for her recovery would be successful; and, as I thought, I achieved it. When nevertheless she died I shifted my ground and worked myself into a belief that there was to be a miracle. The interesting thing is that my disappointment produced no results beyond itself.
The thing hadn't worked, but I was used to things not working, and I thought no more about it. I think the truth is that the belief into which I had hypnotised myself was itself too irreligious for its failure to cause any religious revolution.
I had approached God, or my idea of God, without love, without awe, even without fear. He was, in my mental picture of this miracle, to appear neither as Saviour nor as Judge, but merely as a magician; and when He had done what was required of Him I supposed He would simply--well, go away. It never crossed my mind that the tremendous contact which I solicited should have any consequences beyond restoring the status quo. I imagine that a "faith" of this kind is often generated in children and that its disappointment is of no religious importance; just as the things believed in, if they could happen and be only as the child pictures them, would be of no religious importance either.
With my mother's death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of Joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis. I am going to school for the first time. We are in low spirits. My brother, who has most reason to be so, for he alone knows what we are going to, shows his feelings least.
He is already a veteran. I perhaps am buoyed up by a little excitement, but very little. The most important fact at the moment is the horrible clothes I have been made to put on. Only this morning--only two hours ago--I was running wild in shorts and blazer and sandshoes.
Now I am choking and sweating, itching too, in thick dark stuff, throttled by an Eton collar, my feet already aching with unaccustomed boots. I am wearing knickerbockers that button at the knee. Every night for some forty weeks of every year and for many a year I am to see the red, smarting imprint of those buttons in my flesh when I undress. Worst of all is the bowler-hat, apparently made of iron, which grasps my head.
Surprised by Joy: The shape of my early life
I have read of boys in the same predicament who welcomed such things as signs of growing up; I had no such feeling. Nothing in my experience had ever suggested to me that it was nicer to be a schoolboy than a child or nicer to be a man than a schoolboy. My brother never talked much about school in the holidays. My father, whom I implicitly believed, represented adult life as one of incessant drudgery under the continual threat of financial ruin.
In this he did not mean to deceive us. Such was his temperament that when he exclaimed, as he frequently did, "There'll soon be nothing for it but the workhouse," he momentarily believed, or at least felt, what he said. I took it all literally and had the gloomiest anticipation of adult life. In the meantime, the putting on of the school clothes was, I well knew, the assumption of a prison uniform.
We reach the quay and go on board the old "Fleetwood boat"; after some miserable strolling about the deck my father bids us goodbye. He is deeply moved; I, alas, am mainly embarrassed and self-conscious. When he has gone ashore we almost, by comparison, cheer up.
My brother begins to show me over the ship and tell me about all the other shipping in sight. He is an experienced traveller and a complete man of the world.
A certain agreeable excitement steals over me. I like the reflected port and starboard lights on the oily water, the rattle of winches, the warm smell from the engine-room skylight.
We cast off. The black space widens between us and the quay; I feel the throb of screws underneath me. Soon we are dropping down the Lough and there is a taste of salt on one's lips, and that cluster of lights astern, receding from us, is everything I have known.
Later, when we have gone to our bunks, it begins to blow. It is a rough night and my brother is sea-sick. I absurdly envy him this accomplishment. He is behaving as experienced travellers should. By great efforts I succeed in vomiting; but it is a poor affair--I was, and am, an obstinately good sailor. No Englishman will be able to understand my first impressions of England. When we disembarked, I suppose at about six next morning but it seemed to be midnight , I found myself in a world to which I reacted with immediate hatred.
The flats of Lancashire in the early morning are in reality a dismal sight; to me they were like the banks of Styx. The strange English accents with which I was surrounded seemed like the voices of demons.
But what was worst was the English landscape from Fleetwood to Euston. Even to my adult eye that main line still appears to run through the dullest and most unfriendly strip in the island.
But to a child who had always lived near the sea and in sight of high ridges it appeared as I suppose Russia might appear to an English boy. The flatness! The interminableness! The miles and miles of featureless land, shutting one in from the sea, imprisoning, suffocating! Everything was wrong; wooden fences instead of stone walls and hedges, red brick farmhouses instead of white cottages, the fields too big, haystacks the wrong shape.
Well does the Kalevala say that in the stranger's house the floor is full of knots. I have made up the quarrel since; but at that moment I conceived a hatred for England which took many years to heal. Our destination was the little town of--let us call it Belsen--in Hertfordshire. It was flat Hertfordshire, flinty Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire of the yellow soil. There is the same difference between the climate of Ireland and of England as between that of England and the Continent.
There was far more weather at Belsen than I had ever met before; there I first knew bitter frost and stinging fog, sweltering heat and thunderstorms on the great scale. There, through the curtainless dormitory windows, I first came to know the ghastly beauty of the full moon. The school, as I first knew it, consisted of some eight or nine boarders and about as many day-boys.
Organised games, except for endless rounders in the flinty playground, had long been moribund and were finally abandoned not very long after my arrival. There was no bathing except one's weekly bath in the bathroom. I was already doing Latin exercises as taught by my mother when I went there in , and I was still doing Latin exercises when I left there in ; I had never got in sight of a Roman author. The only stimulating element in the teaching consisted of a few well-used canes which hung on the green iron chimney-piece of the single schoolroom.
The teaching staff consisted of the headmaster and proprietor we called him Oldie , his grown-up son Wee Wee , and an usher. The ushers succeeded one another with great rapidity; one lasted for less than a week.
Another was dismissed in the presence of the boys, with a rider from Oldie to the effect that if he were not in Holy Orders he would kick him downstairs. This curious scene took place in the dormitory, though I cannot remember why. All these ushers except the one who stayed less than a week were obviously as much in awe of Oldie as we. But there came a time when there were no more ushers, and Oldie's youngest daughter taught the junior pupils.
By that time there were only five boarders, and Oldie finally gave up his school and sought a cure of souls. I was one of the last survivors, and left the ship only when she went down under us. Oldie lived in a solitude of power, like a sea-captain in the days of sail. No man or woman in that house spoke to him as an equal. No one except Wee Wee initiated conversation with him at all. At meal times we boys had a glimpse of his family life. His son sat on his right hand; they two had separate food.
His wife and three grown-up daughters silent , the usher silent , and the boys silent munched their inferior messes. His wife, though I think she never addressed Oldie, was allowed to make something of a reply to him; the girls--three tragic figures, dressed summer and winter in the same shabby black--never went beyond an almost whispered "Yes, Papa", or "No, Papa", on the rare occasions when they were addressed.
Few visitors entered the house. Beer, which Oldie and Wee Wee drank regularly at dinner, was offered to the usher but he was expected to refuse; the one who accepted got his pint, but was taught his place by being asked a few moments later in a voice of thunderous irony, "Perhaps you would like a little more beer, Mr. I myself was rather a pet or mascot of Oldie's--a position which I swear I never sought and of which the advantages were purely negative. Even my brother was not one of his favourite victims.
For he had his favourite victims, boys who could do nothing right. I have known Oldie enter the schoolroom after breakfast, cast his eyes round, and remark, "Oh, there you are, Rees, you horrid boy. If I'm not too tired I shall give you a good drubbing this afternoon. He was a big, bearded man with full lips like an Assyrian king on a monument, immensely strong, physically dirty.
Everyone talks of sadism nowadays but I question whether his cruelty had any erotic element in it. I half divined then, and seem to see clearly now, what all his whipping-boys had in common. They were the boys who fell below a certain social status, the boys with vulgar accents. Poor P. I have seen Oldie make that child bend down at one end of the schoolroom and then take a run of the room's length at each stroke; but P.
That peculiar croaking or rattling cry, that, and the grey faces of all the other boys, and their deathlike stillness, are among the memories I could willingly dispense with. The curious thing is that despite all this cruelty we did surprisingly little work. This may have been partly because the cruelty was irrational and unpredictable; but it was partly because of the curious methods employed. Except at geometry which he really liked it might be said that Oldie did not teach at all.
He called his class up and asked questions. When the replies were unsatisfactory he said in a low, calm voice, "Bring me my cane. I see I shall need it. I have seen him leap up and dance round and round like a performing bear.
Meanwhile, almost in whispers, Wee Wee or the usher, or later Oldie's youngest daughter, was questioning us juniors at another desk. Oldie had decided that they could, with least trouble to himself, be made to do arithmetic. Accordingly, when you entered school at nine o'clock you took your slate and began doing sums. Presently you were called up to "say a lesson".
When that was finished you went back to your place and did more sums--and so forever. All the other arts and sciences thus appeared as islands mostly rocky and dangerous islands. At the end of the morning you had to say how many sums you had done; and it was not quite safe to lie.
But supervision was slack and very little assistance was given. My brother--I have told you that he was already a man of the world--soon found the proper solution. He announced every morning with perfect truth that he had done five sums; he did not add that they were the same five every day. It would be interesting to know how many thousand times he did them. I must restrain myself. I could continue to describe Oldie for many pages; some of the worst is unsaid.
But perhaps it would be wicked, and it is certainly not obligatory, to do so. One good thing I can tell of him. Impelled by conscience, a boy once confessed to him an otherwise undetectable lie. The ogre was touched; he only patted the terrified boy's back and said, "Always stick to the truth. He forced us to reason, and I have been the better for those geometry lessons all my life. For the rest, there is a possible explanation of his behaviour which renders it more forgivable. Years after, my brother met a man who had grown up in the house next door to Oldie's school.
That man and his family, and I think the neighbours in general, believed Oldie to be insane. Perhaps they were right. And if he had fairly recently become so, it would explain a thing which puzzles me. At that school as I knew it most boys learned nothing and no boy learned much. But Oldie could boast an impressive record of scholarships in the past. His school cannot always have been the swindle it was in our time. You may ask how our father came to send us there.
Certainly not because he made a careless choice. The surviving correspondence shows that he had considered many other schools before fixing on Oldie's; and I know him well enough to be sure that in such a matter he would never have been guided by his first thoughts which would probably have been right nor even by his twenty-first which would at least have been explicable.
Beyond doubt he would have prolonged deliberation till his hundred-and-first; and they would be infallibly and invincibly wrong. This is what always happens to the deliberations of a simple man who thinks he is a subtle one. Like Earle's Scepticke in Religion he "is alwayes too hard for himself". My father piqued himself on what he called "reading between the lines".
The obvious meaning of any fact or document was always suspect: While he thought he was interpreting Oldie's prospectus, he was really composing a school-story in his own mind.
And all this, I doubt not, with extreme conscientiousness and even some anguish. It might, perhaps, have been expected that this story of his would presently be blown away by the real story which we had to tell after we had gone to Belsen. But this did not happen. I believe it rarely happens. If the parents in each generation always or often knew what really goes on at their sons' schools, the history of education would be very different.
At any rate, my brother and I certainly did not succeed in impressing the truth on our father's mind. For one thing and this will become clearer in the sequel he was a man not easily informed. His mind was too active to be an accurate receiver. What he thought he had heard was never exactly what you had said. We did not even try very hard. Like other children, we had no standard of comparison; we supposed the miseries of Belsen to be the common and unavoidable miseries of all schools.
Vanity helped to tie our tongues. A boy home from school especially during that first week when the holidays seem eternal likes to cut a dash. He would rather represent his master as a buffoon than an ogre.
He would hate to be thought a coward and a cry-baby, and he cannot paint the true picture of his concentration camp without admitting himself to have been for the last thirteen weeks a pale, quivering, tear-stained, obsequious slave. We all like showing scars received in battle; the wounds of the ergastulum , less.
My father must not bear the blame for our wasted and miserable years at Oldie's; and now, in Dante's words, "to treat of the good that I found there".
First, I learned, if not friendship, at least gregariousness. There had been bullying at the school when my brother first went there. I had my brother's protection for my first few terms after which he left to go to a school we may call Wyvern but I doubt if it was necessary. During those last declining years of the school we boarders were too few and too badly treated to do or suffer much in that way.
Also, after a certain time, there were no new boys. We had our quarrels, which seemed serious enough at the time; but long before the end we had known one another too long and suffered too much together not to be, at the least, very old acquaintance. That, I think, is why Belsen did me, in the long run, so little harm. Hardly any amount of oppression from above takes the heart out of a boy like oppression from his fellows.
We had many pleasant hours alone together, we five remaining boarders. The abandonment of organised games, though a wretched preparation for the public school life to which most of us were destined, was at the time a great blessing.
We were sent out for walks alone on half holidays. We did not do much walking. We bought sweets in drowsy village shops and pottered about on the canal bank or sat at the brow of a railway cutting watching a tunnel-mouth for trains.
Hertfordshire came to look less hostile. Our talk was not bound down to the narrow interests which satisfy public school boys; we still had the curiosity of children. I can even remember from those days what must have been the first metaphysical argument I ever took part in. We debated whether the future was like a line you can't see or like a line that is not yet drawn. I have forgotten which side I took though I know that I took it with great zeal. And always there was what Chesterton calls "the slow maturing of old jokes".
The reader will notice that school was thus coming to reflect a pattern I had already encountered in my home life. At home, the bad times had drawn my brother and me closer together; here, where the times were always bad, the fear and hatred of Oldie had something the same effect upon us all. His school was in some ways very like Dr. Grimstone's school in Vice Versa ; but unlike Dr. Grimstone's it contained no informer.
We stood foursquare against the common enemy. I suspect that this pattern, occurring twice and so early in my life, has unduly biassed my whole outlook. To this day the vision of the world which comes most naturally to me is one in which "we two" or "we few" and in a sense "we happy few" stand together against something stronger and larger. England's position in was to me no surprise; it was the sort of thing that I always expect.
Hence while friendship has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of.
Hence, too, a very defective, perhaps culpably defective, interest in large impersonal movements, causes and the like. The concern aroused in me by a battle whether in story or in reality is almost in an inverse ratio to the number of the combatants.
In another way too Oldie's school presently repeated my home experience. Oldie's wife died; and in term time. He reacted to bereavement by becoming more violent than before; so much so that Wee Wee made a kind of apology for him to the boys.
You will remember that I had already learned to fear and hate emotion; here was a fresh reason to do so. But I have not yet mentioned the most important thing that befell me at Oldie's.
There first I became an effective believer. As far as I know, the instrument was the church to which we were taken twice every Sunday. This was high "Anglo-Catholic".
On the conscious level I reacted strongly against its peculiarities--was I not an Ulster Protestant, and were not these unfamiliar rituals an essential part of the hated English atmosphere? Unconsciously, I suspect, the candles and incense, the vestments and the hymns sung on our knees, may have had a considerable, and opposite, effect on me.
But I do not think they were the important thing. What really mattered was that I here heard the doctrines of Christianity as distinct from general "uplift" taught by men who obviously believed them. As I had no scepticism, the effect was to bring to life what I would already have said that I believed.
In this experience there was a great deal of fear. I do not think there was more than was wholesome or even necessary; but if in my books I have spoken too much of Hell, and if critics want a historical explanation of the fact, they must seek it not in the supposed Puritanism of my Ulster childhood but in the Anglo-Catholicism of the church at Belsen.
I feared for my soul; especially on certain blazing moonlit nights in that curtainless dormitory--how the sound of other boys breathing in their sleep comes back!
The effect, so far as I can judge, was entirely good. I began seriously to pray and to read my Bible and to attempt to obey my conscience. Religion was among the subjects which we often discussed; discussed, if my memory serves me, in an entirely healthy and profitable way, with great gravity and without hysteria, and without the shamefacedness of older boys. How I went back from this beginning you shall hear later. Intellectually, the time I spent at Oldie's was almost entirely wasted; if the school had not died, and if I had been left there two years more, it would probably have sealed my fate as a scholar for good.
Geometry and some pages in West's English Grammar but even those I think I found for myself are the only items on the credit side. For the rest, all that rises out of the sea of arithmetic is a jungle of dates, battles, exports, imports and the like, forgotten as soon as learned and perfectly useless had they been remembered.
There was also a great decline in my imaginative life. For many years Joy as I have defined it was not only absent but forgotten. My reading was now mainly rubbish; but as there was no library at the school we must not make Oldie responsible for that. I read twaddling school-stories in The Captain. The pleasure here was, in the proper sense, mere wish-fulfilment and fantasy; one enjoyed vicariously the triumphs of the hero.
When the boy passes from nursery literature to school-stories he is going down, not up. Peter Rabbit pleases a disinterested imagination, for the child does not want to be a rabbit, though he may like pretending to be a rabbit as he may later like acting Hamlet; but the story of the unpromising boy who became captain of the First Eleven exists precisely to feed his real ambitions. I also developed a great taste for all the fiction I could get about the ancient world: It might be expected that this arose out of my new concern for my religion, but I think not.
Early Christians came into many of these stories, but they were not what I was after. I simply wanted sandals, temples, togas, slaves, emperors, galleys, amphitheatres; the attraction, as I now see, was erotic, and erotic in rather a morbid way. And they were mostly, as literature, rather bad books.
What has worn better, and what I took to at the same time, is the work of Rider Haggard; and also the "scientifiction" of H. The idea of other planets exercised upon me then a peculiar, heady attraction, which was quite different from any other of my literary interests.
Most emphatically it was not the romantic spell of Das Ferne. This was something coarser and stronger. The interest, when the fit was upon me, was ravenous, like a lust.
This particular coarse strength I have come to accept as a mark that the interest which has it is psychological, not spiritual; behind such a fierce tang there lurks, I suspect, a psychoanalytical explanation. I may perhaps add that my own planetary romances have been not so much the gratification of that fierce curiosity as its exorcism.
The exorcism worked by reconciling it with, or subjecting it to, the other, the more elusive, and genuinely imaginative, impulse. That the ordinary interest in scientifiction is an affair for psychoanalysts is borne out by the fact that all who like it, like it thus ravenously, and equally by the fact that those who do not, are often nauseated by it.
The repulsion of the one sort has the same coarse strength as the fascinated interest of the other and is equally a tell-tale. So much for Oldie's; but the year was not all term. Life at a vile boarding-school is in this way a good preparation for the Christian life, that it teaches one to five by hope.
Even, in a sense, by faith; for at the beginning of each term, home and the holidays are so far off that it is as hard to realise them as to realise heaven. They have the same pitiful unreality when confronted with immediate horrors. To-morrow's geometry blots out the distant end of term as to-morrow's operation may blot out the hope of Paradise. And yet, term after term, the unbelievable happened.
Fantastical and astronomical figures like "This time six weeks" shrank into practicable figures like "This time next week", and then "This time to-morrow", and the almost supernatural bliss of the Last Day punctually appeared. It was a delight that almost demanded to be stayed with flagons and comforted with apples; a delight that tingled down the spine and troubled the belly and at moments went near to stopping the breath.
Of course this had a terrible and equally relevant reverse side. In the first week of the holidays we might acknowledge that term would come again--as a young man, in peace time, in full health, acknowledges that he will one day die. But like him we could not even by the grimmest memento mori be brought to realise it.
And there too, each time, the unbelievable happened. The grinning skull finally peered through all disguises; the last hour, held at bay by every device our will and imaginations knew, came in the end, and once more it was the bowler-hat, the Eton collar, the knickerbockers, and clop-clop-clop-clop the evening drive to the quay. In all seriousness I think that the life of faith is easier to me because of these memories. To think, in sunny and confident times, that I shall die and rot, or to think that one day all this universe will slip away and become memory as Oldie slipped away into memory three times a year, and with him the canes and the disgusting food, the stinking sanitation and the cold beds --this is easier to us if we have seen just that sort of thing happening before.
Surprised by Joy CS LEWIS
We have learned not to take present things at their face value. In attempting to give an account of our home life at this time I am troubled by doubts about chronology. School affairs can to some extent be dated by surviving records, but the slow, continuous unfolding of family life escapes them. Our slight alienation from our father imperceptibly increased. In part no one was to blame; in a very great part we were to blame. A temperamental widower, still prostrated by the loss of his wife, must be a very good and wise man indeed if he makes no mistakes in bringing up two noisy and mischievous schoolboys who reserve their confidence wholly for each other.
And my father's good qualities as well as his weaknesses incapacitated him for the task. Please be clear in your message, if you are referring to the information found on this web page; or the contents of the book.
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If in doubt, we will always be cautious, and preserve the original spelling. Surprised by Joy: The shape of my early life.Sometimes the behaviour which I call bad is not inconvenient to me at all, but the very opposite.
I must restrain myself. The Reality of the Law I now go back to what I said at the end of the first chapter, that there were two odd things about the human race. Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? He is a mixed bag of a person. That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. What Lies Behind the Law Let us sum up what we have reached so far. Although I had not read most of the books mentioned by Lewis, I was surprised that it really made sense to me.
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