Enough on Kennedy. It is 50 years since CS Lewis died.
What if all of the ancient, recurring myths of the human race, all the yearnings of prophets and sages for the touch of God, for a visit from God, were not just the lies of poets but the hints and rumors of another world? In this account, our deepest, unsatisfied desires for joy, meaning and homecoming are not cruel jokes of nature. They are meant for fulfillment. What we desire most, said Lewis, are “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Lewis himself was an atheist as a younger man, convinced of the fundamental irrationality of faith and its incapacity to accommodate the brutality and senselessness of the Great War, in which he fought from 1917-18. Yet Lewis’s decision to limit himself to a rationalist worldview proved to be imaginatively sterile and uninteresting, leaving him existentially dissatisfied. It became clear to Lewis that pure reason offered him a bleak intellectual landscape that he could not bear to inhabit. Yet this, his reason insisted, was all that there was. To believe otherwise was pure fantasy. Lewis’s imagination taught him that there had to be more. “Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.”
Lewis’s study of English literature, especially the poetry of George Herbert, left him with gnawing doubts about his atheism. Herbert and others seemed able to connect up with a world that Lewis was tempted to dismiss as illusory, yet which haunted his imagination. “On the one side, a many-islanded sea of poetry and myth; on the other, a glib and shallow rationalism.” Might, Lewis wondered, the deepest intuitions of his imagination challenge the shallow truths of his reason? And even triumph over it?
CS Lewis himself: