Archives For C.S Lewis

blog-post-25th-nov-2016-rlWhen it comes to composing music there’s hits, and then there’s misses.

The lesson I’m learning from my own hits and misses is that nothing created is ever completely wasted.

Outside the perfectionist, the only mistakes that really matter in music are the ones that stand out. Those particular kinds of mistakes can break a song and an artist. It’s the ones that break with the rhythm or the melody; the ones that are heard by everyone, not just the person with a trained ear to the ground.

The potential for mistakes like these keep us fine-tuning our craft and tools for the job. They keep is in step with the beat, ensuring that one hundred percent of our attention is given to the composition at hand.

Through humility and a gracious attitude, mistakes can teach us. Through grace they can be made part of a disciplined life. They become fuel; the impetus to get better. Through grace mistakes can even become part of the song, or the beginning of new one.

In God, with God, through God, we are shown how this works. Shown that once humanity drops its facade of isolation, rejects it’s hubris-filled rejecting and grasps the grace that grasps us, nothing created is ever completely wasted. As Joseph said to his brothers,

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen. 50:20, ESV).

Likewise, Paul tells us, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Rom.8:28).

Not even the scrappy three-minute melody that had way too much drums in the mix, or the muddy sound of an instrumental overdone with bass or a guitar solo.

Nothing created is ever completely wasted.

Every new melody, every new beat, every new sound is born from the lessons learnt by simply having the courage to put a hand in The Hand that enables us for the task.

“Courage, dear heart,” (C.S. Lewis) for ‘our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.’(2 Cor. 5:21-6:1, ESV).

Nothing created is ever completely wasted.

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Reagan quote

 

In other words: with the increase of power, so comes a potential decrease in intelligence.

Think of the game total war. With the increase of lands and territory comes the difficulty of being able to govern it all. There’s the inevitable unrest as one area complains about higher taxation than the newly acquired lands. Attempts to balance these out are futile. The end result is that I either send in a highly paid army (that I can barely afford to re-position from the borders of my total war campaign) and implement total control or I side with the rebels. In which case I lose power and choose total, civil war.

To be true, the game mechanic is structured to keep things interesting. It bends against even the most kind among the known world’s rulers. All of my glorious intentions to keep my glorious nation (I mean glorious empire) together fell on the sword of the quest for ever more glorious power.

Still, I can’t escape the implication: with the increase of power, so comes the potential decrease in intelligence. Intelligence does not increase with an increase of power or privilege. In retrospect, my glorious leadership of this burgeoning in-game empire was, as I saw it, benevolent. Why on earth would my subjects want to oust me? I improved their material wealth, even though I may have drained other areas, refused a crusade, jihad or two and squashed a few ”insignificant” uprisings, in order to make more and more glorious my conquests. All done for my glorious peoples.

The point is this: even the most utopian of glorious leaderships will fall. Complex politics reflects humanities complexes. It’s what C.S Lewis outlined when talking about the tyranny of self; something he pinpoints sharply in is, 1948, essay called ‘The Trouble With “X.”

‘I said that when we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God. But only one way. There are two respects in which God’s view must be very different from ours. God sees how all people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same kind – the one you never do see. I mean, of course, yourself.That is the next great step in wisdom – to realise that you also are just that sort of person […] Unfortunately, we enjoy thinking about other people’s faults: and in the proper sense of the word ‘morbid’, that is the most morbid pleasure in the world.’ [i]

Lewis’ advice on how to combat this is,

‘Abstain all thinking about other people’s faults, unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them […] Not even God with all His power (for He made it a rule for Himself not to alter people’s character by force. Although, He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him) can make “X” really happy as long as “X” remains envious, self-centered, and spiteful.'[ii]

Jesus enters this discussion with the words,

‘If anyone would come after me, let him [or her] deny [themselves], take up [their] cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?’ (Luke 9:23, ESV)

Total War may just be a simulation. Nothing but pixels and a few hours of harmless interaction with history. However, the message of its experience extends out towards knowledge of truths that have been heard and acknowledged here in the comments of Reagan, the admonishing words of Lewis and instruction from God Himself.


Source:

[i] Lewis, C.S 1948 The Trouble With “X”…, 2000, Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church, Harper Collins (pp.357-360)

[ii] ibid.

IMG_5137231944, C.S Lewis wrote:

‘The demand for equality has two sources; The noble: the desire for fair play. The mean-spirited: the hatred of superiority […] the kind of ‘democratic’ education which is already looming ahead is bad because it endeavours to propitiate evil passions, to appease envy. There are two reasons for not attempting this.
One: you will not succeed. Envy is insatiable. The more you concede to it the more it will demand. No attitude of humility which you can possibly adopt will propitiate a man [or woman] with an inferiority complex. Two: you are trying to introduce equality where equality is fatal.
Equality [outside mathematics] is a purely social conception. It applies to man [and woman] as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic. Virtue is not democratic. Truth is not democratic […]
Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual or aesthetic democracy is death.’[i]

Lewis’ position on extreme egalitarianism is not unique. The late American political philosopher, Jean Bethke Elshtain, also brilliantly hummed her own critical tune in relation to this issue.

Writing under the heading, ‘Multiculturalism and Democratic Education’ Elshtain stated:

‘Teacherly malfeasance occurs in instances of unreflective, dogmatic politicisation. Each evades the dilemmas of democratic equality rather than offering us points of critical reflection on that dilemma. This sort of education fails in its particular and important task of preparing us for a world of ambiguity and variety. It equips us only for resentment or malicious naïveté [ii]

Lewis and Bethke come at this argument from different angles. Both add to the argument for the rebalancing of the “education revolutions” of the past decade. The area where this applies most is the coercion to meet a particular type of egalitarian compliance (e.g.: new multiculturalism; new tolerance). Slyly disguised as part of an educational standard this ‘purely social conception’ (Lewis) poses as an academic essential. Acceptance and legitimacy is only validated by an alignment with its ideology. In turn, a form of financial blackmail follows. Funding and accreditation comes by complying, or rather conforming with a particular political position.

As a political aim it succeeds in coercing conformity. However, it paralyses the academy because the academic focus is reduced to how best the education fits within a particular type of extreme egalitarian social construct. This narrowing forces everyone into the same box.  From here academic indifference and complacency replaces the energy of academic rigour. Genuine progress is held back by total compliance to an out of control quest for the implementation of “progressive” ideas of tolerance. Democratic debate and its ability to preserve the beauty of unity in diversity, dies.

Differences are unreasonably considered irreconcilable. People are then isolated. Strangers are turned into enemies and friends into strangers.  Both institutionally and clinically, in the name of new multiculturalism, each are set to stick to their own kind, where never the two should meet: Anglos with Anglos; men with men; women with women; African-Americans with African-Americans; indigenous Australians with indigenous Australians; in politics the left with the left, right with the right.  This is, in a roundabout way, the rejection of differences.

For Elshtain it flags a new segregation:

‘As a form of ideological teaching, multicultural absolutism isolates us in our own skins and equates culture with racial or ethnic identity. [In America], the new multiculturalism promotes commensurability: If I am white and you are black, we cannot, in principle, speak to or understand each other. You just won’t “get it […]. Some critics wonder how long it will take to move from separate approaches for African-American children in the name of Afro-centricity, for example, to a quest for separate schools.[iii]

Extreme egalitarianism masquerades as authentic equality. The point and purpose of equality is driven into a quagmire of sameness. Fairness is abandoned and the quest for equality ends up creating new forms of inequality. For example: anyone with a differing position or different ability is condemned, labelled and if history is allowed to repeat itself, shipped off to who knows where, under the guise of “re-education” or “resettlement.”

Nowhere is Lewis’ observation of a hatred of superiority more evident than in Australian society. Socially, our children are taught very early on to enforce extreme egalitarianism. This usually takes the form of an acceptable kind of bullying whereby the victim is labelled a “try hard.” The competency and talent of the person is reduced to meaninglessness by the majority who refuse to deal with their own sense of inferiority. Rather than celebrate the competency and talent of the person, the majority maliciously turn a complement into a put down. The benefit of difference is squashed into the box of sameness.

Most non-Australian cultures would be confused by this. For them the term “try hard” is about positive reinforcement. Those without the talent and competency cheer on those who try hard to hone their skills. The communal benefit is seen, valued and acknowledged.

Not so in Australian society. Outside athletic ability, the rule remains the same: “don’t try to, or even attempt to rise above the rest.”

Although changes are taking place, this tall poppy syndrome still rates as being a huge problem. It presents itself as the biggest obstacle to writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals, right down to budding home-buyers and homeschoolers.

The quagmire of sameness keeps people down. It mutes creativity and stifles industry.

Those who want to retain authentic democratic equality will not find resisting extreme egalitarianism easy. They face a similar hostile reaction to that of Albert Camus, who ‘was virtually excommunicated from the French Left by Sartre and his comrades because he expressed a strong disapproval of the passion for unity that saw any opposition as treason.’[iv]

For both Lewis and Elshtain, extreme egalitarianism is a ‘phony equality.[v]’  It perpetuates that which it says it opposes. This phony equality levels what it subjectively sees as uneven ground, while at the same time it sows inequality, with the tools of oppression: institutional racism, economic discrimination, legalised misogyny and misandry.

Democratic education is reduced to a list of new tolerance compliance orders. Academic standards are lowered whilst teachers are forced to obsess over appeasing the feelings and fickle sentiments of society. In not being willing to fairly recognise and responsibly discuss differences, for fear of offense or ridicule, democracy wanes. Political democracy, as C.S Lewis pointed out, is ‘doomed if it tries to expand its demand for equality into beauty, virtue and truth.’

In not being able to celebrate unity in diversity or find and maintain common ground, democracy fails. The cohesive elements of a vibrant Western society are then consigned to breakdown into the terror of fascism, the shared poverty of communism or the destructive anarchist vacuum of tribalisation.


Sources:

[i] Lewis, C. 1944, Democratic Education In Walmsley, L. (Ed.) 2000 C.S Lewis Essay Collection Harper Collins p.190

[ii] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy on Trial Basic Books, Perseus Books Group p.83

[iii] Ibid, p.79

[iv] Ibid, p.120

[v] Ibid, p.74

Evaluating ExpectationsWith time restraints and the high amount of information available, it’s unreasonable to expect a teacher or a parent to teach a child everything.

Attempting to learn all there is to know about a subject is unrealistic. Any pressure to do so only squeezes the joy out of the learning process.

For example, no one that I’m aware of expects 5th or 6th graders to write a one hundred thousand word, doctoral thesis, on Newton’s Laws of physics. What’s expected is that children might understand the three basic principles, and be able to name them.

Learning takes time and we need time to learn.  This is why most pre-tertiary and some undergraduate programs only teach an overview of a particular topic, sometimes, in repetition. The overview takes the form of an in-depth introduction to the content of the subject.

Once taught, the student is free to explore the subject further. Taking the opportunity to advance then becomes the responsibility of the student, not the teacher – “wax on, wax off.”

The same applies to homeschoolers. The overall goal is infused with the intention to create, inspire, spark interest in and give kids a love of learning.

For Homeschoolers both the world and the home are seen as being educational platforms that provide ample opportunities to empower the learning process. Effectively taking personal responsibility for their child’s early education, homeschooling parents actively involve themselves in the learning process.  They direct and engage with their child. Matching their child’s education with natural abilities in consultation, not servitude, to contemporary standards.

This overall goal begins and ends with what Christian theologians call right relationship, exampled by God, intended to be lived out in both world and home environments. This theological vantage point allows for certain benefits to be more clearly seen.

For instance:

Relationship development: Generally speaking, mum and dad work together. Both are equally responsible, contributing on multifaceted levels. Within a responsible and loving framework, there are few limits on what can be determined as an educational experience.

Community development: Helping a child understand that they are part of a community and seeking to establish what that means for them. Transparency and accountability fall into the sphere of communal participation in the educational process, often including friends, family, professionals, and/or travel.

Embracing technology and media: When it comes to technology and the media, there are parental boundaries in place that teachers don’t inherently own. A child’s learning is directed towards understanding technology, how to adapt to its many changes and use it responsibly. In addition, children are taught the concept of gratitude for access to the technological advancements and privileges on offer in Western Society.

Life affirming experiences: Applied knowledge is the aim of education. A deliberative knowing only empowers embedded knowledge when what we know is applied. Think theology and ministry or perhaps theory and practice. One challenges the other. Theology empowers ministry; ministry informs theology and both move towards becoming an integrated whole.

Humility: No homeschooler or teacher is perfect. Through our constructive response to limitations and setbacks, students learn the importance and being teachable.

Society and politicians will either reasonably support homeschool, or disempower it by coercing parents into a subtle abdication of their parental responsibilities. Whereby, a teacher, fraternity or ideology, ordained by the state, is placed, wrongfully, right at the heart of where a parent or trusted guardian should be. Something for which a blueprint and tragic history already exists[i].

Our task as homeschoolers is not to force our kids to learn, or indoctrinate them with state aligned agendas which change as easily as approval ratings.

Our task is to help our homeschoolers learn, directing them towards freedom and responsibility; towards the Creator, who in Jesus Christ freely chooses to direct us towards Himself[ii].

Following God’s example,  we choose to stand with our kids in order to show them that they can reach beyond themselves; beyond what they and others think they cannot do, inspiring them to see the possibilities of what they can do.

Whether education is based on homeschooling or on parent-teacher consultations, a realistic, achievable and holistic education, hits the ground running when parents are responsibly involved.

The objective for homeschoolers is universal:  loving parents doing their best to set their kids up for success.

‘The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.’[iii]
C.S Lewis, The Abolition of Man, [pp. 13-14]

Sources:

[i] Germany between 1933 & 1945

[ii] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/I

[iii] Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man HarperCollins. Kindle Ed.

C.S Lewis Doodle  is one of the best – if not the only – YouTube channel for visualising the writings of C.S Lewis. Each video rests more on the rare art of artistic exposition, than on an entertaining artistic expression of Lewis’ thought, and they work.

Powered by the voice of narrator, Ralph Cosham, the artistry and attention to detail which goes into producing these short videos are of an indisputable, very high quality. They are useful as a visual-aid, helping to unpack the depth of meaning, intent and context of selected material from Lewis’ many works.

I had recommended these just over a year ago and I am more than happy to do so again.

Kalman Kingsley, is the chief illustrator and has added some new material since then. So, if you’ve got a few minutes spare, they’re well worth your time.

‘The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind so long as we are subject to one law.
But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.’
– (C.S Lewis, ‘The Poison of Subjectivism’ in ‘Christian Reflections‘)

 

 

‘Hatred obscures all distinctions.’

– (C.S Lewis, On Science Fiction, 1955)

Porthole1

David_Low_(cartoonist)_1947Reading C.S Lewis’ essay, ‘Blimpophobia, 1944’, resulted in me sifting through the 1956 autobiography of satirist David Low.

Low was born in New Zealand, later moving to Britain, where he became an influential newspaper cartoonist.

The following quote is a reflection he gives on a cartoon which he drew that featured Mohammed, among others.

Based on the reference to Cricketer, Jack Hobbs, in the text, the date these events took place is 1925.

It’s worth pointing out, then, that this is 90 years old. Given the recent events, I consider its sharp relevance to be poignant and of significant importance to current debates.

With such primary information it is harder for ‘strategies of evasion’[i] to be employed by an esoteric anti-Americanism hell-bent on pushing denial in a blame game that seeks to disempower opposition and further advance the lordship of an overbearing ideological agenda. This point is identified by Jean Bethke Elshtain’s analysis of responses to her attempts to reasonably engage with Muslims and the Western-Left about the harder questions, such as: whether or not there is an embedded relationship between Islamic terrorism and genuine Islam.

Low’s generalisations aside (since not all Muslims would have been in an outrage about it at the time), his experience almost perfectly parallels recent events. It is not something easily overlooked.

Although I get that Low is lamenting a poor decision, I’m not completely sympathetic with him at the end. This is because there are negative ramifications against freedom of speech brought about by these arbitrary responses.

‘Jack Hobbs, the famous cricketer, had touched a high point in his career in equalling Grace’s batting record. I celebrated the event in a cartoon entitled Relative Importance’ depicting Hobbs as one of a row of statues of mixed celebrities, in which his towering figure overshadowed Adam, Julius Caesar, Charlie Chaplin, Mohammed, Columbus and Lloyd George.
It was a piece of mere facetiousness, meaning nothing, but since the public interest in Hobbs was strong the Star gave it an importance it did not deserve by printing it twice the usual size.
It brought a large number of letters, eulogizing and applauding, which surprised me, and an indignantly worded protest which surprised me even more from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, which deeply resented Mohammed being represented as competing with Hobbs, even of his being represented at all.
The editor expressed his regrets at the unintentional offence and regarded the whole thing as settled.
Two weeks later cables from India described a movement in Calcutta ‘exhorting Muslims to press for resolutions of protest against the Hobbs cartoon which shows a prophet among lesser celebrities. Meetings will be held in mosques.’
An additional complication arose. Not only one prophet but two had been profaned because Muslims reverence Adam also.
Bitterness and fury were redoubled.
To quote a Calcutta correspondent of the Morning Post:
“The cartoon has committed a serious offence, which had it taken place in this country, would almost have led to bloodshed. What was obviously intended as a harmless joke has convulsed many Muslims to speechless rage…An Urdu poster has been widely circulated throughout the city, calling upon Muslims to give unmistakable proof of their love of Islam by asking the Government of India to compel the British Government to submit the editor of the newspaper in question to such an ear-twisting that it may be an object-lesson to other newspapers. The posters have resulted in meetings, resolutions and prayers.”
The British Government was unresponsive, for we heard no more.
It is not without a twinge of regret that I reflect upon the loss to history of a picturesque scene on Tower Hill, with plenty of troops, policemen and drums, on the occasion of my unfortunate editor having his ears twisted on my behalf.
When I was talking with Mahatma Gandhi some years later, he deplored the insufficient number of cartoonists in his country and suggested that the well-known appreciation of satire possessed by Indians might make it a congenial place for me to spend some time professionally.
I refrained from comment.
The whole incident showed me how easily a thoughtless cartoonist can get into trouble. I had never thought seriously about Mohammed. How foolish of me. I was ashamed – not of drawing Mohammed in a cartoon, but of drawing him in a silly cartoon.’[ii]

Lewis used Low’s cartoon of the infamous Colonel Blimp as a critique of both over-enthusiastic nationalism and hyper-moralist pacifism.

It’s probably not all that detached from relevance to conclude with his indictment against having a permanent home-guard and the invitation to disaster that total disarmament would bring:

‘My present purpose is not to settle a question of justice, but to draw attention to a danger.
We know from the experience of the last twenty years {1924-1944} that a terrified and angry pacifism is one of the roads that lead to war.
I am pointing out that hatred of those to whom war gives power over us is one of the roads to terrified and angry pacifism…
A nation convulsed with Blimpophobia will refuse to take necessary precautions and will therefore encourage her enemies to attack her’[iii]
5_%20gallery%20-%20Evans%20-%20David%20Low%20-%20Beaverbrook

Sources:

[i] Elshtain, J.B. 2008 Just War Against Terror, Basic Books, Kindle Ed.

[ii] Low, D. 1956, Low’s Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, Inc. pp.123-124

[iii] Lewis, C.S. 1944 Blimpophobia in Walmsley, L. (Ed.) 2000, C.S.Lewis Essay Collection Harper Collins Publishers

Image: David Low (Wikipedia)