Archive for the 'CS Lewis' Category

Almost forget myself

if the world exists not chiefly that we may love GOD but that GOD may love us, yet that very fact, on a deeper level, is so for all our sakes

CS Lewis

Problem of Pain

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Lost in space

What we need for human society is precisely what we have – a neutral something, neither you nor I, which we can both manipulate so as to make signs to each other.

I can talk to you because we can both set up sound waves in the common air between us. Matter, which keeps souls apart, also brings them together.

It enables each of us to have an outside as well as an inside, so what are acts of will and thought for you are noises and glances for me; you are enabled not only to be, but to appear:

And hence I have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.

CS Lewis

The Problem of pain

If there was nothing to remember

I quite enjoy getting older. Amongst most people I know this seems a bit against the grain. Getting old is something to fear and not to talk about. Something to (ludicrously really…) avoid at all costs.

Perhaps it is the fact I still look about 16 years old, the fact that I await puberty and facial hair to make it’s appearance, the fact that my basal metabolic rate keeps me as a skinny wee bugger despite the beer and burgers (have to say I’m glad of the last one…)

There will come a time when I start forgetting things, that I stop getting smarter, and more importantly when I can’t run or climb trees. That will be a day to lament. But not yet.

As animals, we’re on the down slope from our late teens, on virtually every level, from nephrons to neurons, we’re on a (hopefully slow) gradual decline.

The thing that does bother me about getting older is memory.

There was a character called Brutha in a Terry Pratchet book i read as a kid (Small Gods) who had the odd talent of an eidetic memory. He just remembered things. Everywhere he’d ever been, everything he’d ever read. It was just there in front of his eyes when it needed recalled. He was always incredulous when other people said to him that they didn’t remember, as he just couldn’t quite grasp the concept of non-remembrance.

Now I have nowhere near a memory to that degree but I have a tendency to remember an awful lot of things. Mainly this is at work in patients. If I have seen someone before in work, I will remember where I have seen them and in which cubicle and what was wrong with them – though I will probably forgotten how I screwed up the diagnosis or something but maybe that’s just a selective memory.

Patients are how I remember medicine. They’re like a hook to hang your coat on. I only know lots about HSV type I encephalitis because of the guy we had in the corner bed of the unit in NZ who ended up as a bit of vegetable because of it. I remember his name, his wife, what they both did for a living, the son who was a dentist who I spoke to on the phone, where the lesions where on his MRI, the fact that the first PCR was negative, and the way he waved with a tiny bend at the right wrist cause nothing else in his arm worked.

I cannot forget this. Not that I have sat down and tried. If I’m honest I’ve probably done the opposite. I have nurtured the memory. So that I will get it right if I see it again. If you’ve seen the bit in Heat where DeNiro and Pacino have the cup of coffee, and Pacino talks about all the dead people from the murders then you’ll get what I mean.

I have hundred of images, all arranged like little movies in my head, of all the patients I’ve ever seen (well a substantial proportion anyhow). I remember scans and faces and places better than their names but I remember them. I remember the dead ones better than the ones who got better.

I have kept a journal since I was 16 (when I first found unrequited love and my Dad found a sister he’d never known existed – true story…) and if I read it I will have a memory for every day.

I used to get worried when I was younger that at some point I would have gone through so many new experiences and new memories that perhaps my head might explode when it reached some pre-defined bursting point. Or have a “break-down” which was what grown ups used to call what happened to people who had trouble with their “nerves”.  Neither appears to have happened yet. And I need no one to facetiously point out that it is because I have an exceptionally big head.

In Life After GOD, one of the characters gets scared in his mid-twenties crisis, mainly because he fears that once you’ve been through your teenage years and fallen in love that there won’t be any new experiences.

What I’ve found is that there still are plenty of new experiences (though driving the volvo will never give me the same thrill I had driving my 950cc white 205 the day I passed my driving test), though these are increasingly displaced by memories. And all the new experiences you come to along the way are affected by same memories.

Even more disappointingly I have discovered that my memory has a predisposition towards pain, misery and suffering. I find it hard to look at a happy toddler and not picture a hospital bed some 70 years in the future.

This has perhaps not done me any favours when it came to recently losing my Dad.

[Well it’s not that I lost him, I’m pretty sure he’s still in that big hole we dug in the graveyard, we did put an awful lot of dirt on top just to make sure… Though I have lost one parent, I do still have one left, losing two would just be careless…

OK so I’m taking the piss out of death, partly because, as a family we’re again somewhat predisposed to do that, but perhaps more that if Christians can’t take the piss out of death then who can? (i think i want Spike Milligan’s “i told you i was ill” on my grave…)]

Sorry, back to the main thread. I think there is one somewhere.

The problem is that I remember everything. I wake up every day remembering all this stuff that happened. And I will carry it around with me for the rest of my life.

And this is nothing to do with how you deal or process the memory – an important issue in itself – I hold no anger or doubt or bitterness in my heart. I just have the memory.  And how do I deal with that?

In the Great Divorce, it goes on about how we can’t expect to take anything of Hell into Heaven. It just won’t let us. And it has this wonderful bit in it when it says

that heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory… and that is why at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to  blackness down there, the blessed will say “we have never lived anywhere except in heaven…”

Volf goes a step further in talking about the non-remembrance and even the forgetting of memory, that is required for the process of reconciliation (both of us to GOD and us to each other). With the obvious backing that GOD remembers our sins no more and hinted at in Revelation (quoting Isaiah) as “the first things have passed away“.

He talks of GOD remembering our sins for the purpose of forgetting them. Leading us to do the same he states:

…forgetting the suffering is better than remembering it, because wholeness is better than brokenness, the communion of love better than the distance of suspicion, harmony better than disharmony. We remember now in order that we may forget then; and we will forget then in order that we may love without reservation…

Not that he expects us to achieve all this before the dawn of the new age, but it at least should give us the right direction to walk towards.

It strikes me as it does the character in the great divorce following MacDonald’s words about heaven working backwards:

is that not very hard, Sir?

Day dreams

communication, as I’ve waxed lyrical on before about, is great stuff. I can have video chats with my folks and mates back home with no bother, the picture’s good, though my mum’s perennially in her pyjamas for some reason. I can send photos home and get sent photos too. In many wasy I’m communicating better with people than I ever did before. I’m probably speaking to my parents more often, even though I lived in the same house as them!

It’s great that I now have an RSS feed from the CE website and the podcasts on iTunes are simply amazing. And I’ve been listening to these as I drive about the country, catching up on where CE has got to. Most recently it was Rico Tice. He talked at one point on day dreams and how if you catch yourself in a day dream it�ll give you a good indication of where your heart is that.

I’d read something similar in a book by Don Carson before on the sermon on the mount. He listed a set of questions to ask yourself from the beatitudes and one was what do you think of when your mind slips into idle based on “blessed are the pure in heart”

That struck a chord (probably a gmaj7) with me. I’m a continual day-dreamer, I can never say that my mind ever really goes blank as such. Except for maybe when I’m leaving work and I can’t remember where I parked the car.

There’s a near continual dialogue going on in there. Mostly rehearsal I would call it. Now that may be for the soon to be made movie of my life that I seem to have continually running in my head, like the Truman show, except I’m in on it and pretending I don’t know there’s a camera on me. It may also be for all the situations, be it in work or socially where I’ll excel and come across as mr fantastic and everyone will love me and think I’m the dude or in work that I’m a FIG JAM (a rather rude acronym for a medical qualification over here).

So this is what is going on when you see me staring into space or focused on something. I may be writing my most amazing person ever acceptance speech.
That’s where my heart’s pointing, that’s where my desires are leading me. Just under the surface, below all the rational decisions and promises made that I’ve compromised�, is the stinking, rotten heart of ego, pride and arrogance that I’d like to pretend isn’t there.

So there’s a CS Lewis quote, there always is isn’t there:

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you
I never had a selfless thought since I was born
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through
I want GOD, you, all friends to merely serve my turn
Peace, reassurance, pleasure are the good I seek
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin
I talk of love, a scholar�s parrot may talk greek
But self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.


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