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Hope - Week 2

For this second week, I have created a video for my "imaginary interview" with CS Lewis on the topic of "Hope." The Script is below and you can view the video here:

Welcome back for our second week reflecting on Hope.

I’ve changed the format to video, and you can let me know if this works better.

I made a change this week in my habits. We always know there are good news stories out there, but they are seldom sensational enough to land on mass media. This week I found the “Good News Network” and signed up for regular updates. The story that caught my attention was a Chinese consumer tech company that sent crates of respirator masks to Italy in order to help with the shortfall. They had a relationship with Italy because when they expanded their smartphone business two years ago into that area, they said “We have felt loved and deeply integrated into the life of the country.” And the Chinese company posted on the outside of these crates Italian poems, that read: “We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, and flowers from the same garden.”

The global nature of our connections has led to a truly global crisis of disease and it has also led to beautiful global responses, such as this. I find when living through difficult times, great comfort comes in shared experience. Over the past couple weeks, much of my disappointment in cancellations has been mitigated by sharing great disappointment with our surrounding world. We are not alone.

Neither are we alone in our experience of unprecedented times. I was reflecting this week upon the negative thought, “I do not want to be experiencing this over these days, months, (years?),” and I wondered how many others through history have lamented the same thought? Over the world’s history, indeed, many have lived to see times that they wished had never come to pass.

During a time of great war, the famous scholar, philosopher and theologian, C.S. Lewis, gave a series of radio talks in Britain to encourage individuals and families as they rationed their food, turned off their lights, blackened windows and isolated into the darkness while wondering if an air raid siren would wake them in the night. These talks are gathered into a book called Mere Christianity, and the chapter on Hope, while being one of the most concise, is perhaps the most profound and oft-quoted chapters. And so, C.S. Lewis (who died in 1963) will be my next imaginary conversation partner on the topic of Hope.

Me: Thank you for joining me in this unique time.

Lewis: All times are unique, but yes, this time is especially notable.

Me: It is, and that is why I am asking you to share some of your thoughts on Hope.

Lewis: Ah yes – Hope. Hope is a virtue and it is a good way to look into the future. I could look into the future and ask questions about what I will do or how I will go about it, but this is not helpful. Jesus addressed this in his Sermon on the Mount: “Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink? or “What will we wear? For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Indeed today has enough troubles, so strive first for the kingdom of God. We do this when we can look past tomorrow and instead towards heaven, as it is both partially present with us now and fully will be our future.

Me: That sounds beautiful, but I’ve heard the critique that being heavenly minded creates no earthly good.

Lewis: Actually, history shows the opposite is true. Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great people who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. We shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

Me: Thank you, I’m starting to hear some echoes of the conversation I had last week with Daniel Migliore. Could you describe more what this “something else” is?

Lewis: As you know, I am an observer of people and social attitudes and movements. And one significant observation I have made about people is that we have desires. Yet, for all of us (and I mean even the happiest among us), we often struggle to find the fulfillment of our longings. And I have observed three possible responses to our un-fulfillment.

1) I call the first way the ‘Fool’s Way,’ which is to put the blame on other things themselves. The fool goes through life thinking a different spouse, or a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, would finally catch this mysterious something we are all after. She or he keeps thinking the latest is ‘the Real Thing’ at last, and is always disappointed. In our current situation, blame for discontent may fall on Covid-19 or the health experts, or the politicians, or upon those who do not follow the regulations, instead of a focus upon how one might use the current circumstances to make positive changes in life, the world, or care uniquely for neighbours.

2) The second I call the “Sensible Way.” In the sensilble way, a person is more accepting and less blaming when desires are not met. The sensible person rubs along fairly comfortably, but the cost is a loss of any sense of infinite enjoyment. Today, the sensible person is probably following all the rules but feeling rather blah about the whole experience.

3) For the Christian Way, I begin with this basis: Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well there is such a thing as food. Yet, as I have acknowledged, we all lack fulfillment of our desires. Therefore, I propose one of my most oft quoted phrases: If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. This perspective allows us to respond in many different ways amidst the current crisis. We can recognize that disease and even death does not separate us from all that is good, true and beautiful. We can hold our struggles together with a knowledge that desires can still be fulfilled. We can choose to see goodness and recognize heaven in our midst. We can search for delight wherever it is found and know that it is a promise of even more…and we can help others see the same.

Me: (Pause)….I have been ‘sensible,’ often a ‘fool,’ and occasionally lived with desire for my true country. If what you describe is the Christian Way, then I want to embrace it whole-heartedly.

Lewis: Yes, when we describe it with the right language, the path is quite unanimous. The trouble seems to me a misunderstanding of our heavenly Scriptures. We are not meant to be ‘playing harps’ in heaven. Rather the harps represent music – glorious music that only heaven could muster. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolic attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs!

Me: Point well make! Thank you for being both enlightening and entertaining. And thank you for pointing the way towards Hope.


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