20 December 2012

Trad Xmas List: Satan for the Stocking

“There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy (God). He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”  The Screwtape Letters 

There's a Playboy interview (Nov. 1985) with Klaus Kinski where the actor goes bezerk over highway signage:

"There is a sign that says, RIGHT LANE MUST EXIT. Right lane MUST exit! MUST! And I say to myself, MUST? Fuck YOU!"  

For me, this was an instant connection to Kinski. It's still there but mostly shows itself through a shallow disgust of popular culture telling me what I should like and most importantly buy.  That's why I'm so happy to discover the truffles of life. A restaurant, an oxford shirt, chinos or even an uncommon thought on a common subject. 

I wish I read The Screwtape Letters when I was 13.  It wouldn't have been an easy read. It's not an easy read now but there's an odd way correspondence between an elder devil (under-secretary), Screwtape, and his young nephew, Wormwood, have illuminated some simple ideas on how to live life...whether your Christian or not.  Screwtape suggests fashion and novelty are key tools to keep man from the Enemy (God).

"The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under."

Despite the formality of C.S. Lewis, it's exciting to watch demons manipulate man toward their goal.  Screwtape digs into the marrow:

"...He (God) wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it rightous? is it prudent? is it possible? ...if we can keep men asking 'Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time?  Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way history is going?' they will neglect the relevant  questions.  ...while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on." 

It's hard to think of a more contrarian view of God that operates in the positive. I say that assuming you're not related to Srewtape.  My own philosophy, 'God tells me what to do but the Devil's my secretary' touches on my own weakness --  giving up when the going gets tough.  

"The Enemy (God) allows disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. 
...the boy...enchanted...by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek.
...lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together.
In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing."

When I was 13, I asked my Dad if there was a God.  He took me outside, pointed to a sky filled with stars and said, "It's impossible to look at that and not believe there's a God."  When I asked why we didn't go to church anymore, he said he had changed his mind about some things.  This was only two years after he came back from Vietnam. But, he added, "If you remember only one thing...just treat people how you want to be treated." 

I've failed countless times but it seems impossible to give up on the Golden Rule.  Still, I'm not sure where I would be today had I read Screwtape when I was 13. Of course, I'm not sure where I would be if I had never read it. 

“Nothing...is strong enough to steal away a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is took weak and fuddled to shake off.”


brohammas said...

the partisan in me cannot part with the idea that som any sour on religion simply because they haven't looked deep enough into the right one.
But like I said... I guess calling me partisan would be an understatement.

tintin said...

bro- Somehow I knew you'd be first.

Wallace Stroby said...

"In youth, we believe what we hope. In old age, we believe what we fear." - Rafael Sabatini

Mat Alexander said...

I am a long-time reader and a Southern Baptist pastor (go figure?).
I am also a Lewis-phile. Glad to see this post on Screwtape.
Have you read any other Lewis works? I would recommend The Great Divorce if you haven't.

Mat Alexander

GSV JR said...

You know this already, but I'll say it again: your dad was a great man.

Having said that, go to Christmas Eve service, you heathen. Best churches in America in your city. You have no excuse.

Anonymous said...

I found Buddhism after being raised Catholic. It's a nice alternative. No mention of sins, hell fire, et al. It's more of a philosophy that forces you to look in the mirror and see the source of all your problems.


Alice Olive said...

Our house had the same golden rule. I foolishly thought that meant I'd be treated the same way, in return.

I like Matthew's comment on Buddhism's philosophy. In fact, I love it. A good note as the year ends.

cpd said...

Saw Screwtape on stage on Broadway a couple years ago - makes for an excellent play. Some of Lewis' work just screams to be read out loud.

Mark said...

This is an excellent book. Very insightful into human psychology, regardless of whether you believe in God.