Arbtirary thoughts on nearly everything from a modernist poet, structural mathematician and functional programmer.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Weight of Glory

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about The Weight of Glory by CS Lewis. It is a truly excellent analysis of the Christian experience. But from the second or third day after we read it in Small group, something has bugged me about it. I think I finally have a coherent enough "argument" at this point to actually put it online.

Let me preface this by saying that I really do admire and respect CS Lewis. Not only was he a great apologist, but he was clearly a man abounding in faith-- a man who seemed to sit and enjoy God's presence constantly.
That being said, we Christians have an obsession with the afterlife. Not that the afterlife is bad, or anything we shouldn't look forward to, but God's presence and spirit here, now, is so beautiful and so amazing, and so ignored. Throughout the essay, Lewis talks about the "proper reward" of various things. The "proper reward" of love is marriage; the "proper reward" of fighting is victory; he likewise discusses food in metaphor, and (he may actually say this) were he to name the "proper reward" of food, I can hardly imagine it would be anything but health.

Does something seem missing in all of these cases? I submit that there is. You do not fall in love in order to marry; there is no justice in deciding to fight solely because you will achieve victory; food is not merely a way to avoid illness, weakness and death.
Marriage is the proper reward of correct and sustained love, but love comes with more immediate, more beautiful and tangible rewards. Victory is the end reward of proper combat, but fighting for victor as an end is perverse. Health is the end reward of eating, but if you eat solely for sustenance, you will never enjoy food, and you are quite truly eating wrong.

There are, to every action, an immediate reward-- which I will call the excitement-- and an eventual reward-- which I will call the fulfillment. Any action done with no consideration of the fulfillment is sinful-- aesthetic as Kierkegaard puts it, hedonistic would be the more common word. Likewise, any action done with no consideration for the excitement is self-denial-- the actions of the knight of infinite sorrow, according to Kierkegaard, ascetic is a more understood term.
This latter action, self-denial, is the "unselfishness" that Lewis speaks out against in the fist paragraph of his essay. You are denying your immediate excitement because you know that the fulfillment of your action is "good".

But! There is so much more to what God has for us than heaven. There is so much on earth, so many beautiful things that God has given, and so many incredible ways He spends time with us, and enlightens us. We are missing God completely if we hope only for the fulfillment-- even the "selfish" fulfillment of heaven. God is here, right now! And He wants you to be excited in Him. Do not simply drudge along waiting for heaven, because you will get bored and distracted and all will be lost. How long can you eat food only for sustenance before you despise the sight of food? But if you eat food not only for sustenance, but also for enjoyment, how much more will you want food! Then, you will acquire a taste for so much finer, more complex and exciting foods that you would have missed completely if you had neglected your taste-buds.

So it is with God. Seek God's beauty out, and leave heaven at the back of your mind, except when God brings it to the forefront. And you will develop a taste for beautiful things God has done and will continue to do that you would have misunderstood, or disliked, or missed completely.

God is beautiful! God is exciting! And that excitement is tangible and real and all around us!

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