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Lewis on goodness

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Lewis on goodness

Postby mgton » 12 Jan 2009, 18:34

Does anyone know of a particular essay or chapter in which Lewis speaks of goodness being more interesting than badness? He seems to have this view that goodness is like a big, full tree with an almost infinite amount of limbs, branches, and leaves, while badness is like a little broken stick on the ground. In other words, goodness is rich and varied and exciting and interesting, and badness is uniform, bland, and dull.

Even if you can only think of a chapter or passage in one of his fiction works I would appreciate it. All I can think of is a line here or there, like the end of Mere Christianity when he says that sameness is to be found most among the most natural of men, or in A Grief Observed when he responds to the thought that a malevolent God might be behind the universe by saying that that kind of God couldn't even make a joke, much less the universe with its sunsets, stars, and stalagmites.

Anyone know what I'm talking about? :cool:
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby mgton » 14 Jan 2009, 04:33

...Bueller?
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby archenland_knight » 14 Jan 2009, 14:25

Lewis' essay entitled The Abolition of Man(click here)* may have what you're looking for. The essay is on the whole subject of a universal morality. It may have what you're looking for. I can't think of a particular passage, and it isn't a work of fiction, but it may have something.

*Moderator edit (Sven): Removed link. Out of courtesy to the Lewis estate, no linking to copyrighted materials, please.
Last edited by archenland_knight on 14 Jan 2009, 14:43, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby archenland_knight » 14 Jan 2009, 14:41

Oh wait, I just thought of another possibility. This one from fiction:

Puddleglum in The Silver Chair

"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."

To what use do you plan to put this passage? Does Screwtape's assertion that "To be greatly and effectively wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage, or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh?" help any?
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby mgton » 14 Jan 2009, 19:16

Thanks for that. It's not quite what I had in mind though, and it doesn't have to be fiction; in fact, I was hoping that someone could mention a non-fiction passage in which Lewis elaborates on this idea of goodness being more interesting and rich than badness. I think that Out of the Silent Planet contains a lot of this idea, like when Lewis is writing about the devil character, but maybe more so when he is writing about the Eve character.

I guess Lewis never wrote an essay or anything about this idea because I have pretty much every essay he wrote and I can't find anything on it. Maybe I missed something though. :think:
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby gameld » 15 Jan 2009, 17:37

i know somewhere he makes analogy to virtue and vice being like in either a fog or clear day. the source escapes at the moment, but that seems to be what you're going towards. either we're in a blank, boring, scary realm of vice or in the clear, bright, warm, interesting virtue. in the same context he also says that, since vice is foggy, we cannot clearly see out own badness. only as we at least try to be virutuous do we recognize how evil we are.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby mgton » 15 Jan 2009, 17:59

Exactly. Seems like he talks about it indirectly in The Great Divorce. By they way, I should have said Perelandra in that post above, not Out of the Silent Planet.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby Bluegoat » 18 Jan 2009, 23:40

What do you mean by interesting?

I seem to recall that somewhere he talks about giving in to temptation, and the idea by those who are "bad" that those who try to resist temptation are not worldly and don't understand sin. He points out that someone who gives in to temptation with little or no resistance has no real experience of how serious temptation can be. Those who resist it to their utmost have much more understanding of the allures of sin and their own failings.

I think he is probably right about this, and if it's true, the "good" could be said to a richer understanding of life than the bad.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby Paul F. Ford » 29 Jan 2009, 20:31

mgton wrote:Does anyone know of a particular essay or chapter in which Lewis speaks of goodness being more interesting than badness? He seems to have this view that goodness is like a big, full tree with an almost infinite amount of limbs, branches, and leaves, while badness is like a little broken stick on the ground. In other words, goodness is rich and varied and exciting and interesting, and badness is uniform, bland, and dull.


I think you want That Hideous Strength, Chapter 13, Section 4.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby mgton » 30 Jan 2009, 05:04

Paul F. Ford wrote:
mgton wrote:Does anyone know of a particular essay or chapter in which Lewis speaks of goodness being more interesting than badness? He seems to have this view that goodness is like a big, full tree with an almost infinite amount of limbs, branches, and leaves, while badness is like a little broken stick on the ground. In other words, goodness is rich and varied and exciting and interesting, and badness is uniform, bland, and dull.


I think you want That Hideous Strength, Chapter 13, Section 4.


Thanks. I haven't read That Hideous Strength yet. I've read the other two of the space trilogy. The Space Trilogy must be where Lewis wrote about this idea the most.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby Stanley Anderson » 30 Jan 2009, 16:27

I think the passage the Paul Ford mentions is not quite it -- that section does not so much talk about the limitations of evil and the variety of goodness as much as it does Lewis' idea that good and evil are becoming more and more sharply defined and delineated. It may be a consequence of that delineation and clarity that we end up seeing the "sameness" and blandness that evil produces, but it isn't a direct observation or conclusion in that section, it seems to me anyway.

You might check out this thread http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=8994 that talks about some of the same ideas. In a post there, I mention several books where the idea comes through as well as in Lewis' writing style itself.

I wish I could look through all my books and find the many examples that my memory says there are in Lewis' writings (it is a very strongly Lewisian idea that, to me, pervades all of his works). Here is a passage from letter IX of Screwtape Letters that hints at the idea:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.


Chapters 9 and 10 of Perelandra where Ransom thinks about the sort of evil that the Unman represents at his core also speak to this idea of the richness and variety of goodness and the blandness and dreariness of evil. In Chapter 13, in a sort of negative impression of this idea we read, when Ransom is riding on the fish with the Unman and feeling despairing:

In vain did Ransom try to remember that that he had been in "space" and found it Heaven, tingling with a fulness of life for which infinity itself was not one cubic inch too large....That opposite mode of thought which he had often mocked and called in mockery The Empirical Bogey, cam surging into his mind -- the great myth of our century with its gases and galaxies, its light years and evolutions, its nightmare perspectives of simple arithmetic in which everything that can possibly hold significance for the mind becomes the mere by-product of essential disorder.


Well, I know there are lots of much better examples, but like Ransom's state of mind above, they seem to escape me at the moment.

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…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby Paul F. Ford » 31 Jan 2009, 01:56

How about these passages:

If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display far more variety than Hell. "One fold" doesn't mean "one pool." Cultivated roses and daffodils are no more alike than wild roses and daffodils. Letters to Malcolm, chapter 2, paragraph 3

Those who are members of one another become as diverse as the hand and the ear. That is why the worldlings are so monotonously alike compared with the almost fantastic variety of the saints. Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality. Membership, paragraph 10
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Re: Lewis on goodness

Postby carol » 31 Jan 2009, 10:08

Stanley Anderson wrote:I wish I could look through all my books and find the many examples that my memory says there are in Lewis' writings (it is a very strongly Lewisian idea that, to me, pervades all of his works).--Stanley


Yes, at its simplest level we come back to the idea that evil is only "bent" goodness, that Good is the real thing, and Evil is only a cheap imitation.
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