When I was a child…

On the other hand, there were a few things I found perplexing, although it's possible I found them so due to their being anachronistic (they are quite google-able for the curious, I may add). For example, who is Farinata? Why or how did Rousseau first reveal the supposedly "very human" deep hatred of personal freedom in the human striving for Liberty? Also, I can quite understand the need to act when one is moved, and the benefits of making a habit of action at such times. Thus I would guess a good active habit might be one such as, for example, making time to exercise every day. However, what is a good passive habit and why does Lewis think they are good for you?

Unfortunately it's a bit sadly clear Lewis lived in a different time and place when we reflect on his (few) views on women. The books are written with an emphasis on men — to the point, I feel, that Lewis can't even see his non-conscious bias.

For example, in the closing segment titled "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," some time is spent emphasizing how to twist true democracy into nothing more than an insecure internal sense of "I'm as good as you." I live in the land of "no child left behind," and I know what that's doing to both the education system and the morale of teachers and students alike. Nevertheless, while I might agree there are indeed some who are definitely better at some things than others are, I'm not willing to subscribe wholeheartedly to Lewis' assertion of the ills of democracy.

His examples are especially telling: in one of them he uses a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard to assert the little dog is not "as good as" the larger one. But if the living space available is better suited to a tiny dog, or if the owner needs a good alarm-giving dog rather than a huge and easy-going one, then isn't the Chihuahua — in those circumstances — actually better than the St. Bernard? And can't other circumstances be equally easily derived which demonstrate a St. Bernard would be the better choice in that particular case?

Perhaps most telling is when Lewis attempts to demonstrate the falsity of the "I'm as good as you" precept by comparing a plain and a beautiful woman. Wow, that's a bad choice! I understand he may have believed the only means of comparison for women was looks, but fortunately things have changed since then. I would no more expect or validate comparing women via only that category than I would do so for men. What about intelligence, for heavens' sake? What about genetics, or context, or strength, or skills, or anything else by which you might compare one human to another?

The greatest of these is Love

Still, the books were more insightful than just as a handy means to sneer with superiority at others. More than once as I read I also found myself wondering with a touch of concern, "That sounds uncomfortably familiar… do I do that?"

I also found fascinating Lewis' description of how we are seen by god. One of the most frequent arguments I've heard against the christian heaven is how insecure a deity must be if it truly needs to be lauded through eternity by its creations, which it swallows into itself after their deaths. However, Lewis describes a deity who doesn't wish to absorb its creations into a sort of personality-slaying hive-mind. Rather, he describes a deity who wishes there to be such joy and holiness in its creations that they become more — they progress from simple creations to trusted servants, and from servants to beloved children (or sons, as Lewis puts it). In such a view of the afterlife I could see, not a deity requiring constant reassurance, so much as a deity who, with its beloved offspring, sang the joy and holiness of being with them.

With gentle humor and an absence of pomposity, in this thought-provoking epistolary novel Lewis has postulated a deity who actually seems to epitomize christian Faith, Hope, and Love. Simple in concept but complex in execution, there's a lack of complacency or self-righteousness which I very much enjoyed. If only all the Christians I knew could be like this; I'd be tempted… to convert.

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