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C.S. LEWIS: LOVER OF NATURE -an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by Ed Hird+
Perhaps one of the most famous and versatile 20th century English writers has been the Oxford, and then Cambridge, scholar: C.S. Lewis. Some readers, especially children, find the Narnia tales among the most captivating books they have ever read. The recent film and TV presentations of the Narnia Chronicles are making CS Lewis' books even more accessible. University students often reserve their greatest appreciation for C.S. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy. Clyde Kilby describes him as "the kind of writer who can usher the reader into a new world, into a continuing process of discovery that reconstitutes his way of thought and life."
Where did C.S. Lewis get his vivid skill at being able to describe fantasy and science-fiction worlds that fascinate and delight the imagination? Scholars attribute the development of this creative ability to his childhood love of nature. If C.S. Lewis had moved to Canada, I could easily see him wanting to live in the Deep Cove area, with its magnificent forest, water, and mountains. Lewis’ love of nature was something that he never outgrew. Once his older brother brought a toy garden into the nursery. It made Lewis vividly aware of nature -- not as a storehouse of forms and colours but as something cool, dewy, fresh, and exuberant. Years later, he stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day. Suddenly there arose within him without warning an "enormous bliss", a joy that made everything else that had happened to him insignificant in comparison. The rest of his life became the search for that authentic joy that makes all life meaningful. He went through a long period of atheism and cynicism about the world. But he could not ultimately deny the mysterious beauty that he saw in nature.
In his first step to faith, he began to hold that "Beauty is the call of the spirit in that Something to the spirit in us." Gradually Lewis started to realize that the more that he grasped after the Joy in nature, the less of it he would experience. It was his very tendency to analyze and tear apart all his experiences that robbed him of the joy of his experience. As C.S. Lewis discovered, "It is impossible to both kiss one’s girlfriend and analyze the kiss at the same moment." To do so is to dissipate the reality of the kiss.
Lewis began to realize that his search for Joy could not be found in Joy alone, but in that to which Joy points. It could not be found in nature alone, but in that to which nature points. C.S. Lewis began to discover the supernatural behind the natural. As Lewis put it in a letter to a friend, "Today I got such an intense feeling of delight that it sort of stopped me in my walk and spun me round. Indeed the sweetness was so great, and seemed so to affect the whole body as well as the mind, that it gave me pause...Everything seems to be beginning again and one has the sense of immortality." C.S. Lewis later wrote an autobiography entitled "Surprised by Joy", to express how shocked he was to find that Jesus Christ could make such a difference in his everyday life.
My prayer for those reading this article is that we may open our eyes to the beauty of Canada, and that we may experience the Joy of knowing the Supernatural behind the Natural.
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver