Saturday, April 02, 2005

Shadows of Grief

Fellow Seeker did something really wonderful the other day. I had recommended that he read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. After he read it, he saw someone at his job that seemed really down, and he decided to give it to her. He wrote his name in it, and he told her that when she finished it, she should write her name in it and then pass it on to someone else. I thought that was incredible. Like the stuff sappy movies are made of. Wouldn't it be funny if people really do pass it around?

My Thursday book group is starting A Grief Observed by Lewis this week. (I know, I know, and there's more of him to come. I can't help it; it just worked out that way!) We were supposed to read Chapter 1. I started it yesterday and have already finished it. It was that good. He really is, as Andi put it, my favorite dead guy :)

A Grief Observed is quite possibly the most honest Lewis work I have ever read. This is not to say that I don't find him honest elsewhere; on the contrary, I do. But he is usually quite matter-of-fact with his beliefs. It's as if he's saying to the reader, "It's so logical; don't you see?" This book was written after the death of his wife, and he is broken and uncertain. I have never seen that side of him before. He actually asks, "[W]here is God?" and says that when he needs God the most, he finds "[a] door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside" (4). I could hardly believe it. But, you know, that's how you feel. I may not be dealing with the death of a loved one, but much of what Lewis wrote about grief resonated with me.

"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer" (9).

"By writing it all down (all? - no: one thought in a hundred) I believe I get a little outside it" (10).

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? [...] Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief" (25).

"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand" (28).

"Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can't escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. [...] I am more afraid that we are really rats in a trap. Or, worse still, rats in a laboratory" (32-3).

"The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which 'took these things into account' was not faith but imagination (42)."

"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. [...] He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down" (61).

The book is really a journal he kept, and he seems to have worked it all out through writing. In the beginning he rages against God and can't see the answers, but towards the end he answers his own questions. Wonderful.


Tom said...

Its in my top 5 list. Honesty is seldom seen from Christian academic apologists.

A. Estella Sassypants said...

"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer" (9).

That is an amazing quote. I've not read A Grief Observed, although I've often eyed it at the bookstore. You're inspiring me, and it's been a while since I've read any Lewis. Anyway, that quote is so true of grief in general....whether it's the loss of a loved-one, a relationship, etc. Thanks for sharing.