April 10, 2008

Just reread: The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

My UU "Science and Spirituality" group, as part of to push the balance away from the former part of its name, took on this book. I had previously read it in high school, and just retackled it today (it's a quick read). I was a bit surprised by the later addition "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", an almost Ayn Rand-ian rant against over-egalitarianism in the name of "not being undemocratic".

It was interesting stumbling over some overlap with "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (TANGENTIAL RANT: why are all of Firefox spellcheck's suggestions for "Maintanence" variations of "Acquaintance"? It's such a little a+e swap that I don't see how the program is lead so far astray. This must be the fourth time I've made the same typo and been irritated by the results) -- the limits of human cognizance and the "Western Logic" view of the world.

There were a few nice turns of phrase, or of concept. "Humans are amphibians -- half spirit and half animal" is richly evocative. I suppose the logical mapping would be of the physical world to the aquatic, and the spiritual to that of the air. Also: "the union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm" is a lovely thought.

The form of the books, letters from a senior devil to his nephew who is charged with the tempting of one man during WW2 is rhetorically powerful; in particular C.S. Lewis is able to cast his opponents (Christian and otherwise) as food for demons. And some of the devil names are great: Screwtape, Wormwood, Slubgob, Toadpipe, Slumtrimpet, Triptweeze, Glubose along with clever inversions like the diabolic authority being the depths of the "Lowerarchy". Overall the book makes some good and deep points about how to live a Christian life, even if the format gives broader authority to the author than might be otherwise warranted.

Video of the Moment
And now for something completely different: