Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Surprised by Joy

I have been hungry for C.S. Lewis's writing, and Surprised by Joy: the Shape of my Early Life was a satisfying read for February. Walking through Lewis's youth in Ireland and into his exploration of the occult, then atheism, and his eventual arrival at Christianity was a fascinating journey to follow. He writes with honesty (and a vocabulary that humbled me -- I can now define quiddity, farrago, and elenchus). I was so grateful for his perspective on academics, friendship, and God's pursuit of us. Some of my favorite quotes from the book are below, and I hope you, too, might find Surprised by Joy in your hands this winter.

On joy:
"As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to 'enormous') comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?...Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse... withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased... In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else...[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 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... 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.”

On the space around us:
“The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.”  

On reading:
“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”


mom said...

amazing words....if only I could "get" them all.

susan said...

I love your vocabulary. And how smart you are. Added bonus you even like me despite my shortcomings in both those areas!

Abbie said...

Thanks for the highlights! So rich, so thankful for wise people who put their thoughts down in words we can try *ahem* to understand :)