Saturday, November 30, 2013

C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves" / 1

Recently I read C.S.Lewis' "The Four Loves".  There are some really marvelous insights and passages in the treatise.  I will  begin reviewing it but doing some quoting.

In discussing "Affection" he deals with some potential problems with the emotion.  Affection turned into "god" will turn sour on us.

"But secondly, the comment in its own language admits the very thing I am trying to say.  Affection produces happiness if--and only if--there is common sense and give and take and 'decency'.  In other words, only if something more, and other, than Affection is added.  The mere feeling is not enough.  You need 'common sense', that is, reason.  You need 'give and take';  that is, you need justice, continually stimulating mere Affection when it fades and restraining it when it forgets or would defy the art of love.  You need 'decency'.  There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness;  patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be.  That is the whole point.  If we try to live by Affection alone, affection will 'go bad on us'.

How bad, I believe we seldom recognize.  Can Mrs fidget really have been quite unaware of the countless frustrations and miseries she inflicted on her family?  It passes belief.  she knew--of course she knew--that it spoiled your whole evening to know that when you came home you would find her uselessly, accusingly, 'sitting up for you'.  She continued all these practices because if she had dropped them she would have been faced with the fact that she was determined not to see;  would have known that she was not necessary.  That is the first motive.  then too, the very laboriousness of her life silenced her secret doubts as to the quality of her love.  the more her feet burned and her back ached, the better, for this pain whispered in her ear 'How much I must love them if I do all this!'  that is the second motive.  but I think there is a lower depth.  the unappreciativeness of the others, those terrible, wounding words--anything will 'wound' a Mrs. Fidget--in which they begged her to send the washing out, enabled her to feel ill-used, therefore, to have a continual grievance, to enjoy the pleasures of resentment.  If anyone says he does not know those pleasures, he is a liar or a saint.  it is true that they are pleasures only to those who hate.  But then a love like Mrs fidget's contains a good deal of hatred.  It was of erotic love that the Roman poet said, 'I love and hate,' but other kinds of love admit the same mixture.  They carry in them the seeds of hatred.  If Affection is made the absolute sovereign of a human life the seeds will germinate.  Love, having become a god, becomes a demon."  (p. 67,68, Harper Collins)

I have had many blessedly warm relationships in my life, but I have experienced one that is like this Affection gone self-centered and complaining.  This person recently said:  "All the things I have accomplished I have done for the love of my children."  True enough, perhaps.  But now, no one is good enough.   I am tempted toward this also, in getting older, perhaps uglier, perhaps more useless, perhaps ignored, perhaps more easily injured...  too much time to think, the devil's workshop.  But this time can also be used differently.  We need to look up and out.  Do whatever useful things and enjoyable things we can find to do, and not expect "Affection" in return.  Just do them and leave the rest to God.

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