The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Remembering C.S. Lewis: Uproarious Friendship


He had, indeed, a remarkable talent for friendship, particularly for friendship of an uproarious kind, masculine and argumentative but never quarrelsome. Warnie Lewis writing about C.S. Lewis


We have many friends via social networking sites but fewer actual friends, according to a Cornell study reported by ABCnews.com (here). Ned Potter, reporting on the Cornell study writes: "Forty-eight percent of participants listed one close friend when asked, 18 percent listed two and 29 percent listed more. A little more than 4 percent didn't list anyone."

There are many suggestions as to the reasons that our circle of close friends continues to decline. For some it may be simply a matter of time. We don't view friendship as necessary and therefore cultivating and maintaining friendships are lower on our list of priorities. Who has the time and the energy these days to develop friendships? It is hard enough to care for one's own family and make a living in our culture. Many people are emotionally spent and friendship is give-and-take emotionally. Some of us have been burnt by our friends and think that it is just not worth the effort.

Where are the friends that we can share our darkest thoughts with? Where are the friends that we can laugh, cry, talk, and walk with? Where are the animated conversations bubbling over with colorful expressions? Though we may have thousands of "friends" via social media, where are the people that can be confided in?  Potter writes, "We may 'friend' more people on Facebook, but we have fewer real friends -- the kind who would help us out in tough times, listen sympathetically no matter what, lend us money or give us a place to stay if we needed it, keep a secret if we shared one."

We can bemoan the demise of friendship or we can take positive steps to change the trajectory.  C.S. Lewis can help us. W.H. (Warnie) Lewis writes of his brother in Letters of C.S. Lewis:

All of his friends will bear witness, he was a man with an outstanding gift for pastime with good company, for laughter and the love of friends--a gift which found full scope in any number of holidays and walking tours, the joyous character of his response being well conveyed in his letters. He had, indeed, a remarkable talent for friendship, particularly for friendship of an uproarious kind, masculine and argumentative but never quarrelsome.

Warnie Lewis describes the friendships of the group of men who made up the Inklings:

The ritual of an Inklings was unvarying. When half a dozen or so had arrived, tea would be produced, and then when pipes were well alight Jack would say, 'Well has nobody got anything to read us?'  Out would come a manuscript, and we would settle down to sit in judgment upon it--real unbiased judgment too, since we were no mutual admiration society: praise for good work was unstinted, but censure for bad work--or even not-so-good work-was often brutally frank. To read to the Inklings was a formidable ordeal…

Sometimes, though not often, it would happen that no one had anything to read to us. On these occasions the fun would be riotous, with Jack at the top of his form and enjoying every minute--'no sound delights me more,' he once said, 'than male laughter.' At the Inklings his talk was an outpouring of wit, nonsense, whimsy, dialectical swordplay, and pungent judgment such as I have rarely heard equaled--no mere show put on for the occasion, either, since it was often quite as brilliant when he and I were alone together.

The Inklings would meet, according to Warnie ". . . in Jack's rooms at Magdalen every Thursday after dinner.” But they also met once a week at a local pub. Warnie writes, "And there was also another ritual gathering, subsidiary to the Inklings proper: the same company used to meet for an hour or so before lunch every Tuesday at the Eagle and Child in St. Giles', better known as the Bird and Baby. "

C.S. Lewis understood that behind true friendships is a sovereign God. He writes in The Four Loves:

But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ who said to the disciples 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends 'You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests.