"'Blessed are those who mourn.' This truth seems to be missing in certain Sunday morning positive thinking tutorials. It’s as if we’ve come to believe that a smile is definitive proof of what we believe, but a smile doesn’t mean that your faith is any more real or alive than the faith of someone in tears. Cults smile; crazy people smile; evil people smile. The world doesn’t want to know what makes you smile as much as it wants to know what makes you cry. What brings you to tears is far more telling."

— Sean Bess, Relevant Magazine, "Sadness Doesn’t Mean We Are Struggling in Our Faith" 

"Life is not only happiness and games: it is pain, temptation, and failure. And yet in all this it is beautiful if it is supported by love and possesses a hope that transcends the present moment. If we cannot show a picture of life in which even pain, hardship and death are meaningful and belong to a larger whole, then we cannot rehabilitate human existence."

— Benedict XVI, A Turning Point for Europe?, p. 155

"It’s clear that [having] more isn’t producing satisfaction. And the more we look at the data, it appears that the cause more than anything else is that the very act of gaining that affluence has weakened social connection and community enormously, and that’s what people feel a strong lack of. Think what we started to do in the ’50s. We took that money and began moving further out into the suburbs and building bigger houses….

Those things changed our lives in profound ways. They made it mathematically less likely that we were going to be in contact with other human beings. The number of close friends that an American has has fallen dramatically in the last fifty years. The amount of time we spend eating with friends and family has fallen….

Without realizing what we were doing, we’ve traded off an awful lot of our relational life for a very hyper-individualistic, accumulative life. And the trade-off doesn’t seem to be working that well, nevermind that it’s also wrecking the planet."

— Bill McKibben, To the Best of Our Knowledge, "Going Green"

"The less obvious, but in some ways more interesting, and even more subversive question, that economists and sociologists have only begun to pose in the last few years, is ‘Is economic growth any longer producing any gain in human happiness or satisfaction?’ The answer appears to be ‘No.’ The data on American happiness and satisfaction indicates that the number of Americans who feel that they are living very happy lives peaks in about 1956, and goes slowly but fairly steadily downhill since. Which is weird, because in that same fifty years, our material prosperity has about trebled. Now, if the economy worked in the way that we intuitively think it does, those two curves should move more or less in tandem."

— Bill McKibben, To The Best of Our Knowledge, "Going Green"

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

— G.K. Chesterton, A Short History of England, “The Age of the Crusades”

(Source: intracoastal-wanderings)

"The hour of absinthe is over. We shall not be much further troubled with the little artists who found Dickens too sane for their sorrows and too clean for their delights. But we have a long way to travel before we get back to what Dickens meant; and the passage is along an English rambling road — a twisting road such as Mr. Pickwick travelled. But this at least is part of what he meant: that comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel, but that rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which, through God, shall endure for ever. The inn does not point to the road: the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters. And when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world."

— G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, “A Note on the Future of Dickens”

"There runs a strange law through the length of human history — that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam, is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility.

This is the great fall, the fall by which the fish forgets the sea, the ox forgets the meadow, the clerk forgets the city, every man forgets his environment and, in the fullest and most literal sense, forgets himself. This is the real fall of Adam, and it is a spiritual fall. It is a strange thing that many truly spiritual men, such as General Gordon, have actually spent some hours in speculating upon the precise location of the Garden of Eden. Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed."

— G.K. Chesterton, Introduction to The Defendant

(via intracoastal-wanderings)

"And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history — money, poverty, ambition, war, prostituion, classes, empires, slavery — the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, “The Shocking Alternative”


"Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose."

I’ve been seeing this quote posted under the C.S. Lewis tag for a couple weeks now, and I find it kind of worrying.  Not just because it’s a misquotation, but moreover because it’s actually the exact opposite of what Lewis was trying to say. The quote in question comes from his book The Four Loves, which is one of my favorites of his works: 

In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation into which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him (Confessions IV, 10). Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

So you can see that the quote isn’t even Lewis’ idea to begin with.  It’s part of a summarization of something that Saint Augustine has written, but which Lewis goes on to refute: 

Of course this is excellent sense. Don’t put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground — because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend — if it comes to that, would you choose a dog — in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love himself than this.

I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St. Augustine’s Christendom than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up. It is closer to Stoic “apathy” or neo-Platonic mysticism than to charity. We follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, he “loved.” St. Paul has a higher authority with us than St. Augustine — St. Paul who shows no sign that he would not have suffered like a man, and no feeling that he ought not so to have suffered, if Epaphroditus had died (Phil. 2:27).

Naturally, the emphasis is mine. But I think the point is obvious.  Not only is the idea and spirit of this quote completely the opposite of what Lewis means to say, but it’s completely opposed to the spirit of Christ.  If it was just some random person to whom the quote was attributed, I’d just let it go.  You can’t respond to everything or refute every inaccuracy.  But the fact that this idea is being put forth not only as something that Lewis said, but also as spiritual advice that he had written is, I think, a potentially dangerous thing.  

"This is, I think, one little part of what Christ mean by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life."

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, “Christian Marriage”

(Source: wesleystephen)