— Benedict XVI, A Turning Point for Europe?, p. 155
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"
— Bill McKibben, To The Best of Our Knowledge, "Going Green"
— G.K. Chesterton, A Short History of England, “The Age of the Crusades”
— G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, “A Note on the Future of Dickens”
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
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, “The Shocking Alternative”
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.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, “Christian Marriage”
Unfortunately these promises are found often to be quite untrue. Every experienced adult knows this to be so as regards all erotic passions (except the one he himself is feeling at the moment). We discount world-without-end pretensions of our friends’ amours easily enough. We know that such things sometimes last — and sometimes don’t. And when they do last, this is not because they promised at the outset to do so. When two people achieve lasting happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but also because they are also — I must put it crudely — good people; controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adaptable people."
— C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’”