C.S. Lewis Meme & Coronavirus: Life Seems to Have Changed
Clive Staples “C.S” Lewis (1898- 1963) was a British writer and lay theologian whose work seems to have become “the Meme of the Hour” in this year’s epochal transition in American life.
Today, as Delaware and the rest of the country contemplates “reopening” while the risk of the Coronavirus remains, it seems even more poignant.
From his 1948 essay, “On Living in an Atomic Age,” his words follow, seemingly applicable today as they were 70-plus years ago.
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb.
“How are we to live in an atomic age?”
I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.
We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together.
If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs
They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
A veritable torrent of pundits and writers seem to be finding Lewis’ thoughtful insights as relevant today as they were in 1948.
Recognition of the ultimate fact of life, that each of us will be carried out feet first one day, is the prescription for reality.
Before that day comes, recognition that the legacy each of us leaves is in how we’ve touched the lives who God has blessed us to put in our paths is the only thing that is important.
That and, depending upon the faith to which we choose to ascribe, how we’ve expressed that faith in how we’ve lived.
When we come face-to-face with stark reality each morning in the mirror of life, the real questions we need to answer are…
First, am I ready to go today, if my number is called?
Second, am I happy with what I’ve done – and would God be happy – in the time on earth He has given me?
My answers, which may well represent the answers of most of us, would be…
“No, not really! But I’ve tried! If I must go today, take me! And hopefully his grace includes forgiveness for all the times I’ve tried and I’ve failed.”
That is the frame of reference that I think Lewis sought in his cogent essay.
Foundation of the answer(s) to the question(s) really is aspirational. And in aspirations are whatever real power we have in our lives. What are your aspirations? Where is our focus as individuals?
As Lewis acknowledged, the pragmatics of the day always are fair game; they deserve a priority for today.
But, in keeping ourselves safe today, in preserving our families and our communities, immersion in the details, minutiae and even hysteria of the moment can cause us to lose track of the bigger things, including our aspirations for ourselves, our lives, our families and our communities.
So what are your aspirations?
Even from my own unique senior vantage point, where I remain full-speed ahead, and I often go a week without interacting for work with someone older than me, I’m often asked, “Are you retired?”
“No,” I said. “When you read my obituary, you can assume I’ve retired.”
When the audience is the right person(s), I explain:
“My job is to touch lives, and God has given me the tool kit to do that. Every day when I get up, my job is to go out that day and touch lives. At the end of the day, at the end of my time here, I don’t think God cares whether I ever hit a Hole in One, or what my drive looks like off the tee!”
So, C.S. Lewis would ask you, if he could,
“How are you doing? What are you doing with the tool kit that God has given you? Do what you must with the Coronavirus seemingly still present! But don’t look past the bigger questions of the choices you make in your life!”
By Sam Waltz