A FB friend of mine (whom I have not met, but have grown to respect for his wisdom) commented on one of my Facebook’s post about “Preparing for bereavement” by Gary Hayden, a philosophy and science writer.
Gary wrote that article in Straits Times recently and he talked about our mortality and how can we prepare for it. He concluded with the advice of living our life to the fullest by minimizing regrets.
However, the point of this post is what this friend of mine commented about what CS Lewis said in the article. This is what he wrote:-
“Mr Gary Hayden quoted CS Lewis that "... there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it." This is like saying: there is nothing one can do with the bully except to be bullied." I am using a parallel argument to refute an argument.
Suffering ends instantly for one who understands the nature of suffering. Similarly, by simple deliberations, it is possible to make pain not to be pain. Search for a machine will be futile and in any case unnecessary. It is also possible to be completely be free of fear, all fears including the primal fear of death.
But to progress in any direction one must first accept the possibility. Without that first step of acceptance, journey ends without even beginning. Cheers.”
This is my reply to my dear friend.
“Thanks Sir for your input. I understand where you are coming from. The extinguishment of all material attachments is the true reality (goal) of humanity. At the risk of oversimplification, the worldly desire is the poison and its eradication is the solution.
But let's pause for thought there. I have read A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (even wrote about it in my blog). In fact, CS Lewis used another name to disguise the authorship when he submitted the manuscript to the publisher. His identity was only revealed after his death.
He did this because he felt deeply that the book challenged all his preconceived and idealistic pronouncements about the faith. And for a moment, in the eye of the storm, he lost his apologetic mantle, resilience and persuasiveness (at least it seems that way) which he excelled so well in with the scores of books he had written about defending the faith.
The point is this, sir: He loved Joy. He wrote that she complete him. Notwithstanding her previous marriage and 2 sons, he found in her a love that stands closest to the love he has found and experienced in God. They were in fact inseparable. Two peas in a love pod. She encouraged him, inspired him and transformed him.
After her death of bone cancer (a short relationship of five years I think), he took her two sons in and treated them as his very own. In all his pain and sorrow, he somehow blamed God for misleading him up the garden path of hope and then, squashing it with one cancer diagnosis after another. Underscore "somehow".
CS Lewis once said that "death of a beloved is an amputation." He did not say "like an amputation". It's neither a metaphor or analogy - its viscerally real to him. He was not mincing his words here. It is not an armchair philosophizing, like what I do most times bro. It’s real. It’s pain. It’s amputation.
So when he said (as you quoted), "there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it," CS Lewis, a triple first student and a literary genius cum author, who was a formidable apologist himself, was not mincing his words either. He felt it, fought it, but for a period of the trial of his life, he succumbed to it.
He wrote this, "We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, "Blessed are they that mourn," and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination."
Sir, some pain practically robs away a part of you and it is undeniable, inexpressible and simply overwhelming. The deeper the love, the deeper the pain. Mind you, this is not material attachment. Neither is this desire so defined that clogs up the soul. On the contrary, I believe this is the part of us that makes us human. It is what defines our core, our spiritual genome, the singularity of our conscience.
By the way, I have a loved one who is suffering and I can feel (but a fraction of course) the pain in his beloved’s eyes. Generally reticent and quiet, she took everything in by braving it all one step and one day at a time. But I can sense the seams coming apart on some days. You see sir, both are devout believers, but at such times, faith can be seen as a luxury and reality, a stoic torturer.
But the pain for CS Lewis was not all bad. He wrote that “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to know it down.”
CS Lewis grew stronger in the faith and understanding after Joy's departure. You can say that he lived out the cold bowel of his writings, every vowel of it that is. And he passed away soon after his beloved's demise, but his belief stood firm (and inspired many). He was better for it (so to speak) because he confronted (unavoidable) pain, consorted with it for a while due to the fragility of humanity, but he broke away from it for the unsurpassed eternity that lies before him. It is one eternal desire he wishes never to extinguish.
Let me end my friend with the endearing apologist’s own words: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trust it?”
Indeed, CS Lewis tested his rope. And it stood the test of time, pain, grief, trials and even death. Cheerz.”