If books series like Harry Potter or Twilight have revealed anything, I believe it is the existence of the author crush. We all have that friend who has fallen so madly in love with the writings of a particular author that, no matter how the ink spills out of said author’s pen, they will lap it up and enjoy it. You know who I am talking about, it is the same friend that usually inserts the phrase, “oh, like when Voldemort…” into your conversations. Or that person who talks like they are “bff” with that shirtless, vampire guy from Twilight. They are the ones who already have their Halloween costume picked out by the end of spring, and may actually wear it around the house when no one is looking.
I pick on people with a crush on J.K. Rowling, knowing very well that I have an author crush myself. It all started the year I graduated from college, the first time. I was never a very big reader growing up, choosing instead to spend my time finding ways to get dirty or grounded. Ironically enough, very shortly after I was no longer required to read, I picked up what I would consider my very first pleasure read. It was love at first sight. The book was a children’s book, called The Magician’s Nephew. It was the first of the famous Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.
In the Narnia books, Lewis creates a playground for the mind. Better still, he takes hold of the imagination and uses it to teach profound lessons about humanity and the nature of God. (If you want a great example, read this recent post on the topic by a friend of mine.)
Needless to say, my love affair with his writing started there, and it has grown into much more than an infatuation. Not only was Lewis an excellent wordsmith, he possessed an acute perception of the human condition. It was standard issue for Lewis to take some simple aspect of life, one the rest of us merely take as fact, and point out a reality that is quite contrary.
I received one such smack in the face during my most recent Lewis read.
Not too long ago, I discovered one of my colleagues in country was the possessor of Lewis’s rarely spoken of Space Trilogy. I immediately asked to borrow it, and upon finishing the series, my view of life was challenged.
Let me share.
The following quote is a passage from the final book in the series, That Hideous Strength:
“Don’t you like a rather foggy day in a wood in autumn? You’ll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car.”
Jane said she’d never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn’t mind trying. All three got in.
“That’s why Camilla and I got married,” said Denniston as they drove off. “We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It’s a useful taste if one lives in England.”
“How ever did you learn to do that, Mr Denniston?” said Jane. “I don’t think I should ever learn to like rain or snow.”
“It’s the other way round,” said Denniston. “Everyone begins as a child liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Haven’t you ever noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children – and the dogs? They know what snow’s made for.”
“I’m sure I hated wet days as a child,” said Jane.
“That’s because the grown-ups kept you in,” said Camilla. “Any child loves rain if it’s allowed to go out and paddle about in it.”
~ C.S. Lewis, in That Hideous Strength (emphasis added)
When I was a little kid, I can remember liking school. Honestly, I liked everything about it. My friends were all there and I got to see them everyday, but what was really exciting about it was the classroom. I know that sounds crazy, but I liked learning. As a kid, the world was this new strange place and it was fascinating. Things that are now so commonplace as to not stir up any emotion were once new and exciting. My earliest memories of school are filled with the joy of new discovery.
But somewhere along the way that all changed. I distinctly remember not liking school by the fifth grade. I remember talking about summer as though it was this long-off paradise. I do not know why; I have already posted about what my summers were like. This was the phase where it became cool to make fun of my teachers and talk about how stupid our homework was.
What happened? How did my mind change so much? School had not changed in those four or five years. I had.
In reality, I had learned what Lewis called “the art of disliking.” Something had become more important to me than new discovery. It was acceptance. It was fitting in with all the people around me who had made me think I was “supposed” to not like being there. They were wrong, and I was wrong to listen. I took a gift from God, namely joy in his creation and the uniqueness of it, and threw it away for a shot at being like everyone else. I will never know the full extent of what has been robbed from me by this decision. The extra things I would have learned and the joy that would have come are lost forever.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul asserts that he is not writing out of need for anything. He tells them instead that he has learned to be content in all situations (Phil 4:10-13). By the way, he wrote those words sitting in a jail cell.