Sunday, March 21, 2010

C.S.Lewis, exemplary Christian and Buddhist

One of the most famous and popular of Christian apologists is C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis.  For my money, two of his best books are Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.  Mere is a collection of three presentations he made on British radio about the general, basic tenets of Christianity without regard to Catholicism or the several branches of the Protestants.  When thinking about the religion, I tend to forget about the Greek and Russian branches.  I have read Mere Christianity several times and admire the crisp, clear language Lewis creates. 

The Screwtape Letters are the letters written by an important official in the "Lowerarchy" of Hell to his nephew who is just beginning his career as a devil and captor of souls.

He also wrote the Narnia tales for children ("The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"), a space trilogy and many other books.  He wrote "The Four Loves" but actually wrote about five: affection, friendship, eros and agape (the love of man by God).  The fifth is the love of humans for their animals, such as dogs and cats.

Lewis was a professor of literature at Cambridge and Oxford and was a member of the club called The Inklings, which included Tolkien, author of "Lord of the Rings."  He was a very good thinker and speaker, despite being poor in math and possibly knowing little of the traditions and literature of the east.  One of the most basic insights of the Buddhists is the value of being aware of one's own thoughts and feelings, as in observing them.  That observing bit, that watching gives a person enough distance from her/his thoughts and feelings that there is a chance to consider them, note their tendency.  Such observation increases self-compassion, which in turn leads to all sorts of better feelings and behavior toward others.  Lewis once said that a person gains enormous power if he can develop the habit of noticing what is going inside.  He wrote that if I can learn to say to myself "I am entering the state referred to as lust", I gain a chance to guide myself better.  C.S.Lewis, Buddhist!! Who knew?

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