Saturday, February 21, 2009

CS Lewis: De Futilitate - Then what's the good of the ruddy world going on?

I'm loving continuing to read CS Lewis' Christian Reflections essays. I've moved on from The Funeral of a Great Myth to his De Futilitate.

Early on this essay takes a similar angle. He speaks into WWII's sense of futility. Strikingly he notes that people really should experience futility. He tells the story of serving in the Home Guard with someone and watching them for the first time face the issue. Lewis says the norm should be for us to ask, what's the use of the world going on?

How could we not ask that? Don't we all see the repetition, the closed system that goes no-where, the spinning of planets, the lack of real progress...

However, this futility is very well concealed by the myth of evolution. As in Funeral Lewis critiques not the science but the myth, the "popular evolution" attached to it. Lewis:
"As J. B. S. Haldane says, in evolution progress is the exception and degeneration the rule.Popular Evolutionism ignores this. For it, ‘Evolution’ simply means ‘improvement’."
Contrary to "the myth":
"The huge background is filled by quite different principles: entropy, degradation, disorganization."
Everything makes us look small and says:
"Organic life is only a lightning flash in cosmic history".

That said,
"The fact that the ship is sinking is no reason for allowing her to be a floating hell while she still floats. Indeed, there is a certain fine irony in the idea of keeping the ship very punctiliously in good order up to the very moment at which she goes down."
- keep playing the music on the Titanic while she sinks! Go with Wallace Hartley. Lewis notes that surely we don't have to just imitate the futility we see.... It's reminiscent of Ecclesiastes which exposes the hebel of the world but still sounds notes of joy. And Lewis is (playfully) drawing us in to where he will take us in the main bulk of the essay, to get in the face of the futility. 
We see futility so what do we do about it?
  • We could take it and despair.
  • We could deny it, which is anti-science and common to much eastern thought, and to some Christianity.
  • Or thirdly, you can contend with the futility, interrogate it.
Lewis invites us to get face to face with the futility and take the third option.... [to be continued]