Clarity Needs Humility

C.S. Lewis was an accomplished academic. He taught at Oxford and then Cambridge, and wrote several significant academic works that are still highly regarded today (The Allegory of Love, The Discarded Image, English Literature in the 16th Century, A Preface to Paradise Lost). His academic credentials are solid. Among many readers, especially American evangelicals where his influence is greatest, he is primarily perceived as an “intellectual” writer, and first and foremost an apologist. At the same time, Lewis has always had a somewhat ambiguous relationship with academia. His fame and influence is chiefly from his popular works, not his scholarly…

A Poem For Times When Something is Just Off

When I was in college, I struggled a bit with mild depression or melancholy. During those times, I found refuge in music, long walks, and poetry. This is a poem that I wrote during that season and just found the other day. It tries to articulate that sense of strangeness or eeriness that can come with depression—that feeling like everything in the world is a bit off color, or blurry like when you have the wrong prescription glasses. Sometimes just getting to the point where you can articulate that feeling can bring a measure of comfort.

On C.S. Lewis, Humility, and Marketing

The 1973 MacMillan edition of C.S. The Great Divorce quotes Lewis in large font on the back cover of the book as claiming: “Blake wrote of the marriage of Heaven and Hell. . . . I have written of their Divorce.” This sounds like a bold claim, a challenge to the great poet William Blake—and its not hard to imagine how such a tagline could be advantageous from the publisher’s standpoint for marketing purposes. But the publishers take Lewis’ statement out of context. What Lewis actually wrote (in the preface) was this: “Blake wrote of the Marriage of Heaven and…

If I Were Casting That Hideous Strength

One of my favorite books is That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, the final novel in his Space Trilogy. As far as I know, there are no plans to make it into a movie—but there should be! Its a great story, with an ever-relevant message (which Lewis also makes in The Abolition of Man), and beyond that, I think it could be turned into a movie much more easily than most other books-turned-movies. For example, I think this book makes for a much more natural movie than the Narnia stories. I’ve read or listened to it many times over, and…

Looking Back At Favorite Blog Posts and Series

I’ve been blogging for just over 6 years now. Its been a far more enriching experience than I had expected. My primary purpose in blogging has always been my own learning: I find that I learn best in a dialogical, two-stage process of both (1) reading and (2) writing. Stage 1 typically involves carefully reading a book with my pen in hand, making notes on the pages and inside the back cover as I struggle with how to place and understand the book. (Sometimes, of course, it could also be an article, movie, etc.) The key in this stage is…

Help from Bryan Garner on Writing Well

In my Historiography seminar this fall we worked through Bryan A. Garner’s Modern American Usage: The Authority on Grammar, Usage, and Style (3rd edition; Oxford University Press, 2009). Its basically a reference tool for issues of style and grammar, and I am finding it a very helpful resource for improving my writing. I think the best way to learn grammar and usage is, like most learning, by observation—reading skilled authors over and over until their writing habits soak into us. But books like Garner’s can be very helpful as a supplement to this. In class we worked through the “Quick…

The Objectivity of Ideas

This is a favorite passage from my favorite book these days, perhaps my favorite book of all time. Its describing one character’s reaction to his being imprisoned and trained in “objectivity,” which in the context of the book means the belief that all thoughts are mere chemical reactions and there is no possibility of using reason to arrive at truth. I think this notion that ideas correspond to objective reality is one the main issues that comes up discussions about the Ontological argument (which I’m reading a lot about in my PhD work these days), and also in Plato’s theory…