Monthly Archives: February 2015
For most people funerals are awkward and uncomfortable. Fortunately most of us don’t have to attend that many so as to worry about it. On the other hand because we don’t attend that many we feel uncomfortable and out of place the few times we do. What should I wear? What should I say? How does one make “small talk” at such a solemn time? Is it okay to laugh? What if I can’t hold it together? What if I didn’t go?
The reason funerals are awkward is because death is awkward. Death doesn’t fit comfortably into any category of the mind. One might say death is the ultimate anti-category.
In June 1959 a Mary Willis Shelburne wrote to C. S. Lewis and shared the story of an elderly neighbor who tried to cheer up Ms. Shelburne by saying she had “a visit from a ghoul.” Lewis responds “Your elderly neighbor would be comic if matters at issue were not so serious. She has an odd idea of how to cheer people up!”
Lewis closes the four paragraph letter by finding three categories for death. He writes, Continue reading
Spike Milligan (1918-2002) was a legendary British comedian. A constant theme in his act was military cowardice. In February 1977 a teacher by the name of Stephen Gard wrote to Milligan asking about this unusual topic of his comedy. Milligan, who served as a solider in World War II responded, Continue reading
I believe it was Winston Churchill who once defined a fanatic as someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. Makes you want to be aware of how often you bring up any given subject.
Near the end of 1949 an American nun by the name of Sister Mary Rose wrote C. S. Lewis asking why he was not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Lewis responded but Sister Rose evidently misunderstood his explanation and so wrote again to further press the matter. Continue reading
British-American neurologist Oliver Sacks recently discovered he has terminal cancer. A rare tumor that left him blind in one eye metastasized and now occupies a third of his liver. Sacks is the author of several books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, and Awakenings (which inspired the Oscar-nominated film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro). He shares his thoughts in a February 2015 piece in The New York Times, Continue reading
Holbrook Jackson (1874–1948) was a British journalist and writer as well as a joint editor of the New Age, editor of T.P.’s Weekly and a biographer of both G.B. Shaw and William Morris.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was an English writer, lay theologian, philosopher, journalist, literary critic, and Christian apologist. He also had a habit of voicing his disagreement with authors in the margins of their books. When he read Jackson’s observation “Theology and religion are not the same thing. When the churches are controlled by the theologians religious people stay away” he grumbled in the margin, “Theology is simply that part of religion that requires brains.”1 Continue reading
There are moments when we all think about our final moments. We only think about it for a moment.
She was crowned Queen of Scotland at age 6; married and widowed by 17. At 44 Mary Stuart was beheaded in front of 300 people on February 8, 1587 by order of her cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I.
Six hours prior to her execution she wrote a letter to the brother of her deceased first husband, Henry III of France. Her second paragraph begins matter-of-factly, Continue reading
In 1973 a Mr. Nadeau wrote to author E. B. White about what he perceived as the bleak future of humanity. In his March 30 response White wrote, “Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.”1
Thirteen years earlier C. S. Lewis penned a one paragraph note to a Mrs. Ray Garrett talking about the elusive nature of stimulation. Instead of looking for temporary relief one needs to do the next thing. In his words, Continue reading
Oxford professor Dr. Carlyle had passed away. On May 30, 1943 C. S. Lewis penned a short note to the good doctor’s daughter extending his sympathies. He begins, “Mr. McFarlane told me the news about dear Dr. Carlyle a few hours before I saw it in the paper. In spite of his great age—what difference, after all, does it make when it comes to the point?—I was quite unprepared for it. It makes the worst gap yet. I never knew an Oxford without him.”1
After sharing what a delight it was to know him and of the lasting impression he would leave Lewis sums up his life this way, Continue reading
The writer and essayist Flannery O’Connor was once quoted as saying “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I’ve met a few people who think the same way.
And like thinking writing can easily become jumbled, scrambled, twisted, knotted, mixed and muddled. Sometimes you write in such a flurry that when you’re done you no longer know what you wrote or what you were thinking! Continue reading
The old saying is there are no second chances to make a good first impression. Don’t we all know? One slip of the tongue, inadvertent glance of the eyes, or a stumble in manners or protocol can quickly convey you are someone not even you would like. It happens to all of us.
In a long and winding letter to his brother Warnie in February 1940 C. S. Lewis shares an incident that he most likely never forgot. Everything about the evening went wrong. It was snowing and terribly cold, the meal he was served was less than appetizing, and the man seated next to him he described as “that record bore _______.” Continue reading