Monday, November 29, 2010

cigars in heaven

In the beginning, there were Tolkien and Lewis. My early guides into the dank underground of fiends and fell beasts. Into the perilous realms of myth and faith and fairytale. Into the crannies of my own imagination. Sure there were the abridged [gasp and shame] editions of Cooper, Stevenson, Twain, Defoe, Dumas, et. al., and the uninhibited goofiness of Seuss and Silverstein, and the apprenticeship to Encyclopedia Brown, and the commiseration of another fourth-grade nothing, and espionage with one Harriet M. Welsch, and more, for sure; but it was in the Shire in conference with a wizard that I first felt the true, osmotic warmth of fiction's fire; it was in Narnia over tea with Mr. Tumnus that I knew, more than almost anything else, that my name was Lucy and I was fond of the flute. Soporifically fond.

In short, I am here for having been in those places. My enthusiasm for literature would likely have dwindled soon if not for the early and abiding influence of those two ingenious dons. Perhaps, I would have never returned to unabridged editions of those illustrated classics. Perhaps, I would never have mucked through the marshes of Dickens or raced through the heather of Hardy--those two later heroes of mine. And here's a thought, by what road then, if not for them, would I have arrived in front of this screen. Writing because I too am a writer now, if I may be so audacious in the vicinity of these other names.

I wonder if I'd've ever found my way here. Then again, such is the nature of all of our choices. That is, they uncannily result in actuality. Or so it seems. Though there is some dispute as to the existential before and after of it all, the which-of-my-choices-were-mine-after-all of it all. So who knows, really. I am only guessing that I would not be here. Here in your face, specifically. More generally, here in my face. What laughter lines do I owe the bumbling Samwise Gamgee, what furrows were plowed when Aslan was slain? Even if those particular lines have been erased, re-scrawled, and erased again since then; it was surely those lines that first taught my flesh to wrinkle at words.

I am of this mind presently because today is Lewis' birthday. A fact I do not claim to have secure in my head by devices mnemonic or repetitious. A fact I was treated to by my desk calender. Thanks, desk calender. It is a fun fact indeed and colors my cockles rosy. The fellow would be 112 by now. Had his mortal heart been as lasting as his legacy. Had anachronisms not been liquidated in That Hideous Strength. (Best Chapter Title Ever, BTW--The Liquidation of Anachronisms. That phrase alone could have kept me thrilled with literature for a plenty long time.)

Though we are not always on the same page, Clives Staples (best name ever, btw) and I, he will always be half of my holy duo. Beyond his fictions, I will always admire his faith in the unflinching face of reason and reality. Through his personal grief, he learned the approximate weight of the world's sorrow and bore it out on pages before us that we might feel, by reading mere words, some lightening of our own heavy loads. He said what we wanted to say about God--what we should say if not for want of a candor willing to broach the blasphemous. What a fine apologist, old Jack. Commitment in surfeit. Against all claims of experience. An "intolerable" doctrine of Hell, admittedly repugnant and "detestable" but nonetheless justified as moral. No problem. A heaven populated by unrecognizable family and friends yet more joyous than the sensational loves of them all combined. Sure. Why not?

Now doesn't this all sound great. In fact, thanks to you, Jack, it does. Happy birthday, Mr. Lewis. I hope you were wrong about heaven. I hope "there are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored."


  1. I could not be happier if you had delivered this eulogy at my own father's funeral. Jack would consider more than passable, I'm sure. I myself hardly know which thoughts I first thought for myself of he thought for me and I thought along. I raise my glass.

  2. Wow! What a great blog, Jonathan. I too, fell under the spell of Lewis and Tolkein and to this day they still remain clear and present, mystical and faithful revealing a world my imagination clings to and all between 2 thin covers.

  3. here, here. Fantastic writing, Jonathan.