Back from Narnia

“Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.”- CS Lewis, The Four Loves

A place of safety and retreat for me is where I am sitting right now- in the armchair of my library, either reading, or writing, with a big fat mug of coffee or a glass of wine or pint of ale.   My books stand comfortably at their posts on the shelves behind me, and a few of those jolly souls occupy an honored spot of distinction on the end table beside me, a few dog-eared and well worn, others fresh from the field and awaiting perusal.

Many of these books are by or about CS Lewis.  Over the past few years, his books have been the pebble in the pond, sending ripples out to other books, other authors, living and dead, past and present, which now grace my shelves.  Lewis has been that particular member of the communion of saints who has opened door after door after door, engaging me, challenging me, until I learn more about myself as a writer, a teacher, a husband, a father, and a follower of Christ.

And wouldn’t you know it?  I have found others in my own situation.  I registered for the CS Lewis Retreat held in Navasota, TX early, knowing that it would be smack dab in the middle of a busy 1st quarter teaching my rambunctious seniors, but feeling it was high time to engage in person with authors I had only known in black and white thus far, and a hazy coterie of folks who had been touched by Lewis and I knew were out there somewhere and not just on WordPress and Blogger.  Who were the faces behind the fingers tapping at those keyboards?

“So how did you get into Lewis?” Andrew Lazo asked me as I found a seat in the lobby at Camp Allen Retreat Center in Navasota Texas.

I waxed semi-lyrically a rather incoherent reply.

Andrew seemed to get the gist.  And he must have also seen an undercurrent of pleading in my voice and eyes, as in “Did I make the right decision to take a plane and come here?  I’m not here with anybody.  There just seemed to be this necessary pull to…to trust that it wouldn’t be a waste of ti–…”

“Well, it’s great to have you here.  You’re home, my friend.  Welcome home.”

And that was pretty much the whole retreat, folks.  Just one interaction with “home” after another.  Further up and further in.

The primary focus of the retreat centered on Lewis’s The Great Divorce, an allegorical novel about a purgatorial bus ride to the lowlands of Heaven.  Speakers such as Joseph Pearce and Louis Markos expounded on the novel and its understanding of the true nature of sin and its application for us today, especially as (as many were in the audience) writers, teachers, and scholars.  A writer’s track featured Diana Glyer, author of The Company They Keep: Lewis and Tolkien as Writers in Community.  Using Lewis and Tolkien as models, she explained differences and writing styles and importance of recognizing our own styles and playing to their tune instead of the ideal tune we wish to fit ourselves into.  I had the good fortune of arriving early on Thursday and getting to know Diana and her 10 year old daughter Sierra.  Sierra was mid way through a novel with an unmistakable cover which immediately identified the author for me: The Pearls of Lutra, by Brian Jacques, the famous creator of the Redwall series.  So we ended up having a wonderful discussion about hares, squirrels, mice, otters, and the difficulty of mastering mole speech (as in “Burr-oi, soir, oim gurtly afurred of villy-ans.”).  Lancia Smith led a hosted group focusing on CS Lewis and our approach to prayer which was revealing and refreshing.

A highlight for me was Bag End Café, led by Andrew as a sort of open mic night for the retreatants.  Original poetry was read, songs were sung, music was played, and if the cookies and other assorted goodies, as well as the wine and beer, didn’t make you feel like you were sitting in the Green Dragon, I don’t know what else would have.  A few of us continued to burn the midnight oil when others had left, leading to a few more hours of horrible punnery, bad jokes, and multiple toasts to whoever and whatever.

Friends were made quickly and permanently.  A woman named Lani and I shared our stories over coffee.  Lani was friends with Lancia, who introduced me to William, who sat at lunch with Kathleen who pulled me into a fascinating conversation about cathedral architecture with Steve, which resonated with Katie, who introduced me to Thomas, and then there was that great conversation with Crystal, and …you get the picture.  Everywhere and anywhere, conversations abounded and fed our hearts, minds, and spirits.

The Ad Deum Dance Troupe lent movement to many emotions and insights unvoiced in a beautiful performance which made me forget the pain in my knee and just revel in unspoken story.

Thus, after a full weekend of almost too many expectations fulfilled, it was time to say goodbye.  Stan Mattson, president of the CS Lewis Foundation (and may I take this opportunity to just rename him King Frank, as humble, forthright, and good-natured as that character was in The Magician’s Nephew?) led us in an old folk song entitled “Will Ye No Come Back Again,” a fitting, quite emotional end to our time together as our voices (including my reedy tenor) intermingled with a sense of true fellowship and completeness.

I left with a heart a thousand times lighter, with grace and a sense of purpose I haven’t known for a long while.  And with, as the theme of the retreat indicated, a sense of eternity, in the here and now.

Screwtape Letters and The Hobbit

Screwtape advises Wormwood on the modern human mind and how it differs from those of the past in Letter One:

 “At that time the humans…still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.  But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that.  Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.

So how does Bilbo Baggins factor into this?  Well, CS Lewis did dedicate the book to JRR Tolkien when it was first published in the 1940s.  But aside from that…

Malcolm Guite writes in a recent post about running to catch his plane:  “I was obliged to pass through all kinds of searches and high security electronica at various airports. Now I had forgotten I would have to do this and had set off on the adventure, like a certain middle aged hobbit before me, without so much as a pocket handkerchief, but with the usual assortment of bits and pieces in the pockets of the trousers, waistcoat, and old tweed jacket I happened to be wearing when… I dashed for the plane.”

Guite happens to have in his pockets an assortment of pipes and pipe cleaning devices, which render a bit of concern to the security folks.  To Guite, it was a perfect time to reflect on Gollum’s question to Bilbo in The Hobbit (“What has it got…”) and GK Chesterton’s famous essay “What I Found in my Pocket.”  GKC ponders on each sundry item and the eternal possibilities of each.  At the top of the post, he shows a picture of Bilbo running to join the dwarves from Peter Jackson’s upcoming movie.

Having read his post, and thinking about this first post about the Screwtape Letters, I realized that Bilbo had, prior to his mad dash and through the encouragement of Gandalf, been moved into a course of action by a chain of reasoning which would alter his life forever, even if he wasn’t cognizant, and even hostile, to the reasoning and action initially.  Therefore an undercurrent of Screwtape’s first letter exists in Bilbo’s transition.   I argue that this wasn’t purely rational, but more of a poetic reasoning, bordering on instinct, which stirred the deepest core of his being.

We read at the beginning of the Hobbit that Bilbo thinks adventures as “nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things.”  Yet Tolkien takes some time to relate Bilbo’s ancestry, and that deep in Bilbo’s bones there perhaps lay a bit of “Tookishness,”waiting to emerge.  Gandalf, apparently, sees this in Bilbo, and has arranged, without Bilbo’s consent, to have him as part of an adventure with 13 other dwarves.

If this new course of action is to take place, something which would bind Bilbo to his prior action must be forfeit.  Bilbo’s sedentary life revolves around comfort and food.  Thus, when the “throng” of dwarves arrive,” they proceed, quite rightly in this sense, to eat Bilbo out of house and home.  They demand Raspberry jam and apple-tart, mince-pies and cheese, porkpie and salad, red wine, eggs, coffee, cakes, ale. When Gandalf calls out to him to just “bring out the cold chicken and pickles,   Bilbo states “’ [He] Seems to know as much about the inside of my larders as I do myself!’ thought Mr. Baggins, who was feeling positively flummoxed, and was beginning to wonder whether a most wretched adventure had not come right into his house.”

Which it had, of course, but before Bilbo can even consider going on said adventure, the food supplies of his comfortable home are rapidly depleted.  It is almost as though Gandalf is subtly setting up a transition from the comfortable and ample provisions of dear old Hobbiton, to meals which “didn’t come as often as  Bilbo would have liked them (Ch. 2).”

The plainly physical obstacle or desire removed, Bilbo then experiences a poetic epiphany which showcases Bilbo’s change of path and reasoning.  He hears of strange and wondrous things as the dwarves begin to tell of past adventures:

“As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking stick. He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up–probably lighting a wood-fire–and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr. Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again.

He got up trembling.  He had less than half a mind to fetch the lamp, and more than half a mind to pretend to, and go and hide behind the beer barrels in the cellar, and not come out again until all the dwarves had gone away.”

I love that last part.  Here the core of his being is stirred to new heights, and he wants to hide.  But the spell has been cast: he is looking at things in a new way.  Far from “a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing around in his head, (Screwtape)” Bilbo experiences clearly a single focused desire far beyond his humble hobbit home, seeing, perhaps for the first time in his mind’s eye, caves, mountains, waterfalls, and dragons.  There is poetic reckoning here.

And in the end, after a bit of a freak-out (“Lightning, Lightning!”) and some negotiation via his “business manner,” off Bilbo goes, albeit late, to join Thorin and the dwarf party.

“To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more.”

But we as readers recognize and remember, however, for we too join Bilbo on his adventure, just waiting for that narrative moment when he finally agrees, and the story may truly begin.

What a contrast from Screwtape’s patient, the “sound atheist,” which he uses as an example to Wormwood to point out the necessity of keeping people mired in “real” life, a life devoid of an untold myriad of potentialities!

“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch.”

Screwtape’s patient is unable, or unwilling to “believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before [his] eyes.” Screwtape shows him a newsboy selling the paper, and a bus passing by, and convinces his patient of remaining sedentary in his comfortable “real life.” His life remains ordinary, and ultimately, ignorant.

What might have happened, someone may posit, if Bilbo had decided not to go?

No story.  No adventure.  No stirring of the Tookish poetic inside his soul.

And what of us?  What incompatible philosophies and distractions do we allow to dance about in our heads?  I declare myself the worst of this lot.  Whether thinking about the next errand, mucking about online, worrying and fretting about minor things, letting my mind drift during conversations instead of being in the moment, the willingness to turn on the TV and allow wave after wave of insignificant advertisements and talking head point of views interrupt whatever peace of mind and sense of adventure the Lord desperately desires to plant in my soul.  And then I wonder why I am so stressed out.

Rather, with Grace offered, let me listen to the possible Took inside me, who so often looks out the window onto a glorious day and sighs, citing responsibilities and restrictions and distractions rather than immersing in contemplation, and the possible adventure which lies ahead.

Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis Book Review by Transpositions

Over at Transpositions guest authors are offering their  Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis Book Review: Introduction.  Of particular interest to me is an analysis of Lewis as literary critic, as his scholarship colored his philosophy of education.  Lewis offers a countercultural, metaphysical understanding of literature which goes against modern interpretations of the function of literature.  The more I read into this, the more I recognize the stark contrast of his understanding to contemporary scholars.  In my role as a teacher of British Literature, I find Lewis is, quite frankly, both an illumination and a a relief, though I must put in more study in order to articulate this countercultural relevance.  To wit: I am required to lay down a curriculum of literature which endeavours to create an appreciation of literature of the past and form a culturally literate student body.  When my seniors graduate, they then enter an undergraduate realm where this cultural literacy is undermined and slowly torn down.  Critical thinking and appreciation gives way to political manipulation and a theoretical watering down of literature to the point where the question is less “What is literature?’  to “What?” The underpinnings of a purposeless posit of literature gives way to a purposeless study of literature.

This is an uncharitable, broad brush stroke on a perceived divide between secondary and undergraduate education, but I really think Lewis’ ideas hold some key to this.  More later, but in the meantime, enjoy the erudite minds of Transpositions.

The Avalanche and the Rose

I am currently reading, among other books, Yours, Jack, a collection of letters by C.S. Lewis to various correspondences.  I was particularly caught by the imagery he uses in a letter to Edward Lofstrom in January 1959.  He is responding to Lofstrom’s letter on who Jesus was:

 

“Of course.  ‘Gentle Jesus’ my elbow!  The most striking thing about Our Lord is the union of great ferocity with extreme tenderness…Add to this that He is also a supreme ironist, dialectician, and (occasionally) humorist.  So go on!  You are on the right track now: getting to the real Man behind all the plaster dolls that have been substituted for Him.  This is the appearance in Human form of the God who made the Tiger and the Lamb, the avalanche and the rose.  He’ll frighten and puzzle you: but the real Christ can be loved and admired as the doll can’t.”

RamblePost: The Church Calendar, Divine Hours, Oxford, and Chesterton

Bit of a lag in blog posting lately, thought much is on my mind, so I will proceed here with a “ramble post,” which invites to the dinner table both connected and disconnected thoughts which have merrily jumped around my head lately.

Great post on Internet Monk by Chaplain Mike on the Church calendar as we in the faith enter into “ordinary time.”  It was this sense of liturgical time which has given an enormous sigh of relief to me in my journey with Christ.  The ecclesiastical idea that there is a “time for everything,” really resonates here.  Instead of the need for a single spiritual high from one Sunday to the next, the recognition of a steady ebb and flow to the life story of our faith, much more conducive to reflection and spiritual growth, is sought after and lived on a month to month, year to year basis.  We have our Christian Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

This is complemented by the “infinity of little hours:” the Divine Hours, which pattern our reflection and prayer for the day.  Lest one begin to think, with typical American indignation, that this hampers our “freedom” in faith, it is worth noting the number of monks, among them Thomas Merton, who relay, from practical experience, the tendency for this daily pattern to free, rather than quell, our spiritual growth.  More on that can be found here.

BTW, a great online resource for the daily office can be found at Brother Stendhal-Rast’s site here.

I tried to post a “Vlog” on Youtube, but the audio is completely out of sync, apparently a widespread problem for Youtubers.

Off to Oxford in (yikes) 22 days.  Currently reading (sporadically, even though I set myself up with a schedule) Bleak House by Charles Dickens, of which I am enjoying.  He has such a democracy of characters- we are all allowed, with our innocence, quirks, faults, and hopes to be in his novels in one form or another.  Next up, Middlemarch.  Then Return of the Native.  Why oh why did I sign up for Victorian Literature?

Reading and listening about GK Chesterton thanks to this little hidden site.  Here’s a little gem from Chesterton:

“When it comes to the World, we have to hate it enough to want to change it, but love it enough to think it worth changing.”

Here endeth the Ramblepost.

Brain Spill- Look at the Pretty Colors!

I have some time over Spring Break to engage in some arguments, discussion, musings, ideas, and readings of which I have put on the back burner for most of the school year.  Here are the snippets, and some links to articles and blogs which have caught my eye.  They all seem to go together somehow…the “somehow” of which i am still figuring out:

C.S. Lewis’ ideas on education: “not cutting down jungles, but irrigating deserts.”

The role of technology in education, especially literature studies.

-fantastic discussion of which can be found in Diana Senechal’s article “The Most Daring Education Reform of All”

and Sven Birket’s “Reading in a Digital Age.”

Technology and Theology.  What better introduction can I offer than Callid Keefe-Perry’s presentation at Theology After Google?   Callid’s presentation- and some comments- can be found over at The Image of Fish.

In the midst of all this, I am trying (not much succeeding, but) to wind down my analytical mind and just enjoy a damn good story.  Contemporary literary fiction makes me want to hang myself, so here’s some cool books currently by my leather chair: FableHaven, by Brandon Mull, Sea of Monsters (part of the Percy and the Olympians books) by Rick Riordan, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Personally, my favorite cover is Fablehaven’s:

Interesting thought to note: ever since I put down the articles and starting incorporating some fantasy literature into my diet, my dreams became more vivid.  Hmmm…

Final thought: To properly experience the majesty of God, one must be able to feel and touch a clod of dirt in one’s hands with the same wonder in which one looks up into the vast reaches of interstellar space.

What If Books Contained a Story?

Anne Jackson recently posed a question asking “What’s missing from today’s books?” I’m a bit disappointed that, on the surface anyway, her query was geared toward an analysis of “the market,” but I see where she is going with this. As an English teacher, the question jumped off the screen and sat on my lap, begging to be answered, but drooping lids prevailed and I retired early to bed (without setting the alarm- let me tell you, it was an exciting morning!).

Here’s C.S. Lewis on the subject of great literature:

Literature enlarges our being by admitting us to experiences not our own. They may be beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, exhilarating, pathetic, or comic… My own eyes are not enough for me. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in a Greek poem, I see with a thousand eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself: and am never more myself than when I do.

This is a quote I share with my students at the beginning of the year. The desire and ability to “become a thousand men and yet remain myself,” is the essence of an intelligent and broad perspective reaching out to understand the world around him/her.

But is this the literature of which Anne speaks? My assumption (and this is only an assumption) is that she is speaking about books akin to her own, such as Mad Church Disease. I’m not sure. However, I did find an article I thought quite illuminating on what the current market demands. In a nutshell: kids’ books. Susan Carpenter of the LA Times writes in the article “Young Adult Lit Comes of Age” that

It used to be that the only adults who read young adult literature were those who had a vested interest — teachers or librarians or parents who either needed or wanted to keep an eye on developing readers’ tastes.

But increasingly, adults are reading YA books with no ulterior motives. Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids.

Recently, I whipped through CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, both in print and in a wonderful radio drama version, and currently I am dipping a tentative foot into Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, about a boy who finds out he is half Greek…god.

I am starting to label myself a Recovering English Major. I went through my modernist and post-modern lit as an undergraduate, read and over analyzed “deep” literary fiction, and ultimately came up with the novel idea of actually reading a STORY. It took some heavy lessons learned and essays culled by CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, GK Chesterton, and George MacDonald, among others, to realize that “sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.”

Is it what the market wants? Apparently. Is it what the market needs? Definitely.

Now you’ll have to excuse me…I already know the dragon exists, but I must continue my quest to defeat it.

Off to Oxford

I am pleased to report I have won a scholarship to attend the English Literature Oxford Summer School program at Exeter College in July.  I’ll be spending three weeks under the spires where JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and the rest of the Inklings taught and created their works.  Just imagining I’ll be in the place which was the genesis of Narnia and Middle-Earth gives me the chills.  The scholarship was provided by the English Speaking Union of Central Florida, and you can find their website here.

My wife and I journeyed to England this past summer (2009), and I was able to record some video focusing on Oxford to show my students in the fall.  Here’s a brief discourse on Addison’s Walk at Magdalene College, where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to take long walks:

“The Monks are back. School must have started…”

…this is what I wrote recently in my journal, totaling the entries to two (2), because it’s a beautiful leather bound journal I received as a gift for Christmas years ago and I don’t want to mess it up with my scribbling.

So what I wrote must have, in hindsight, been pretty important.  And now, upon reflection, seems to me an indicator of a new season in my life.

The “monks” in question are actually two books about monks: An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Maguire and Voices of Silence: Lives of the Trappists Today by Frank Bianco. Infinity profiles five young men who chose to become novitiates of the strict Carthusian order started by St. Bruno in the 11th Century.  Voices explores the structure of life among the Trappists, from the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky to Notre Dame de Melleray in France.

The books are quite gripping, and help sustain an interest in monasticism I’ve had for years, but the real question remains: “Why did I choose to pick up those particular books?”

I’ve quipped a few times to my friends that the practices of monasticism are really a form of Ritalin for those of us suffering from spiritual ADHD.  For those, like me, who suffer from the actual physical disorder, you may know what I’m talking about here.  Our attention span is a like hummingbird drinking espresso- it’s all over the place.  Spiritually, I think this makes it harder for us to focus on God, especially in silence and reflection.  If there are a million things going through our mind every second, what do we do to help us put all of that aside and focus on God and His guidance and assurance?

Along with increasingly over-perscribed medication, psychiatrists emphasize the establishment of routine and pattern of those with ADD.  This emphasis on organization helps reduce the stress and anxiety that usually occurs when “too many things seem to be happening at once.” Similary, monks have established spiritual practices (prayer, work, contemplation, lectio divina) which allows them to further focus on God.  This is not to reduce these practices as some sort of “prescription for finding God,” but I think the analogy works to a point.  Monks remind themselves daily- hourly- of the pattern, rhythm and presence of God in their lives and in the world.

Which brings up the question of liturgy.

It’s a question already posed, and answered substantially, over at Julie Clawson’s onehandclapping blog.  Liturgy is the rhythm and pattern many Christians follow and embrace every Sunday as part of their worship service.  This is the “smells and bells” approach to worship, with repeated prayers, times for standing, sitting, kneeling, singing, contemplation, and the partaking of the Eucharist.  For many of us, it is a reminder of God’s role in the world and the steps it took to bring about the miracle and mystery of Christ.  For me, it’s a reminder to breathe, not simply just to relax, but to breathe in the realization, as Rob Bell stated in a recent sermon, that “A whole new world is bursting forth, right in the midst of this one, and everybody everywhere can be a part of it” and that “A Christian is constantly learning how to see this creation with their very own eyes.”

There are many other thoughts on this, and I encourage those who would like further perspectives to the conversation put forth in Clawson’s blog.

This sense of structure and organization is imperative to me as a high school teacher.  yep.. That’s what I do.  And let me tell you, if you are disorganized as a teacher, life quickly becomes a living hell.  Because it’s not just me…the organization of my 150 students is a necessity as well.  It’s organizing lesson plans, homework, essays, vocabulary work, grades, progress reports, permission slips, notes, etc.

But it’s all meant to create a space so we can open up.  We can explore.  We can immerse ourselves.

The monks are back.  To remind me of what higher purpose that structure is for…

Why Read? Talk to Jack…

The first day back from Winter Break went rather well, I think.  Though we are still winding down the 1st semester (3rd marking period doesn’t technically start until Jan. 20th- I know, weird, right?), I broke out the new syllabus to share my objectives and expectations for the rest of the year with my students.  At the top of the page, I included this quote:

“Literature enlarges our being by admitting us to experiences not our own.  They may be beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, exhilarating, pathetic, or comic… My own eyes are not enough for me.  In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.  Like the night sky in a Greek poem, I see with a thousand eyes, but it is still I who see.  Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself: and am never more myself than when I do.” – C.S. Lewis

When I came across these words by the immortal Jack, it sent the requisite chills down my spine.  I shared this quote with a colleague, who promptly said “Exactly.  This is the type of philosophy that our students need to hear.”  People will argue that there is no practical application to learning literature.  Practical be damned- it’s worth so much more than that.  In our consumer-oriented, me-me-me culture, where our kids grow up with the “the whole world revolves around me” mentality shoved down their throats, it’s refreshing to read an old dinosaur like C.S. Lewis, telling us it’s not about practicalities, it’s about Perspective.  A person with an expanded perspective lives in a larger universe than someone with a limited perspective.  In a later excerpt from the essay quoted above, Lewis noted that you can always tell an “unread” mind from a “read” mind: “Their world is always too small.”

Our job, as English teachers, is to make those worlds larger.  And to answer the argument that “Oh, Shakespeare doesn’t speak to this generation’s experience,”  I answer either “Are you sure?”  or if I think about that quote above, I say “Good.”