The timelessness of C.S. Lewis as found in a pandemic

I read a marvelous passage by C.S. Lewis over on the blog of
‘Smoke of Satan and the Open Windows of Vatican II’—

The blog title comes from a quote by Pope Paul VI:

“We would say that, through some mysterious crack—–no, it’s not mysterious;
through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God.”

And so I would dare say that it would behoove all Christians, Catholic and non, to understand
that Satan has long fought to ooze into the tiny minuscule cracks found within the Church’s
earthly foundation.

Have we not seen such in the way of sexual abuse scandals, the acceptance of homosexuality,
and a myriad of schisms to name but a few of demonic attacks…

But that story of Satan’s attempt to breach the walls of the Church is but for another day…
for today—we turn to the timeless wisdom of C.S.Lewis.

The following passage is actually from an essay written by Lewis in 1948
addressing the fear of living in a frightening new atomic age.

He was addressing a real fear suffered by those of his generation.

There was the constant and real worry of “is today the day?!
The day we are incinerated??!!
The day life ends as we know it??”

And how often have we, the generations of today, asked ourselves a similar question…
Is today to be the day that is the end of life as we have known it?
Will a pandemic bring us to our knees?
Will the specter of Death now knock on our door following
a mere trip to the grocery store because we stood near another who coughed?

Lewis reminds us that we have each been sentenced to death long before
there was a bomb, or in our case, a virus.

He admonishes us to “pull ourselves together”
He practically commands his readers to stop cowering
under the pretense of what might be and to instead live as we are…

There is much wisdom to be found in the words of Lewis…offered to a previous
generation…but oh so timely and pertinent to us today as we live under the shadow
of our nation’s response to a pandemic.

Do we hide and cower while waiting for death or do we choose to live?

I pray we choose life!

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.—

“On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays.

13 comments on “The timelessness of C.S. Lewis as found in a pandemic

  1. blmaluso says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I will definitely pass it on.

  2. hatrack4 says:

    Great post and thoughts, as usual

    Two Things – 1) You are so nice and kind to describe the gaping chasms in our churches as being wee tiny cracks that are not noticed. The rampant lack of faith within the walls of the church lead to misconceived notions about the homosexual issue and abortion and such. With our command of not judging being misunderstood, we accept anything as maybe, sorta, being related to faith. Yet, can we “see” faith, thus a wee tiny crack that no one notices. Thank you. And 2) Thank you for the extended Atomic Age quote. I have used the last couple of sentences.

    Have a great Sunday.

  3. Salvageable says:

    Love the works of C. S. Lewis.
    And it’s always helpful to find historic context for current events. Last week a family member said, “I don’t remember the flu pandemic of 1919 being mentioned in history class. I’ve learned more about it this year than in all my years of school.” I responded that the textbook chosen by the school for my class says quite a bit about the influenza pandemic of 1919. Also about the bubonic plague (or Black Death), about AIDS, and about the effect of diseases from the east on populations of the western hemisphere five hundred years ago. Maybe historians pay more attention to disease now than they did a generation or two ago. I know historians pay a lot more attention to food than ever before. J.

  4. Tricia says:

    Awesome post Julie and C.S. Lewis’s advice , as always, is so right here. Sure wish he was around today.

  5. oneta hayes says:

    So good, Julie. That enriches my life.

  6. Citizen Tom says:

    A good reminder and good advice.

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