The Same Old Thing

I listened to a segment of The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, this morning. The terminology sounded archaic to my ear, but the truths are timeless. The audio version sent me searching for my old paperback version. Found it! The pages are brittle, yellow, falling out, and marked with my notes from youth. But the devilish Screwtape is as relevant now as it was when I was in college.  Here’s a sample:

“If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

“The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating Pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual ear; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.

“Now just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games in which conkers succeed hopscotch as regularly as autumn follows summer. Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite, or unrhythmical, change kept up.” (The Screwtape Letters, pp. 115-117)

Lewis goes on to note how the incessant demand for novelty diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. This week I’ve spent several hours controlling leaves around the church and the house. It’s the Same Old Thing, just like every other October when the leaves fall. But holding a rake isn’t a horror. The falling leaves remind us of God’s faithfulness in the turning of the seasons. Collecting leaves does feel mundane rather than spiritual, but when we get to heaven I think we’ll discover many of our most spiritual moments were mundane.

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