C.S. Lewis & Life's Simple Pleasures
Beauty can invigorate our working hectic lives, if only we let it.
I've spoken with writers, pastors, mothers, and fathers who tell me, "I just don't have time to get out and spend time in nature or go for a walk or just sit and listen. I'm too busy."
And I get it. I fall into those seasons as well. But over the last five years those seasons are few and far between. Why?
Well, C.S. Lewis had something to do with it.
Beauty begins in the simple. A bee in a blossom. Our children singing in their beds when they think we can't hear them. A walk in the rain.
And it is in those simple moments we find ourselves.
In his “Memoir of C.S. Lewis,” Warren Lewis, C.S. Lewis’s older brother, recalls how “Jack” (C.S. Lewis’s self-chosen childhood nickname) did not envy the modern child save for their ability to use “gumboots and oilskins and a sou’wester” for outdoor play during periods of rain.
Jack loved a good romp on the countryside. If he were alive today I've no doubt he'd don Patagonia's Torrent Shell rain jacket and a nice pair of Danner. At least that's what my American imagination believes.
As the brothers reminisced about their childhood years later, Warren notes how, aside from those modern inventions, “Jack” lamented “the lost simplicity of country pleasures: the empty sky, the unspoilt hills, the white silent roads on which you could hear the rattle of a farm cart half a mile away.”
The theme of beauty remained a central thread throughout Lewis’s life, according to the ones who knew him best and whom he loved most, Warren Lewis and Arthur Greeves.
In fact, Jack described himself as a beauty hunter; spending his life trying to find that place where all the beauty came from.
And that pursuit nurtured his work.
Beauty, for Lewis, began in the simple beauty of landscape and transposed itself into the literature Lewis came to love and master.
“Jack’s mind was developing and flowering on lines as unpolitical as can be imagined,” writes Warren. “His letters of the time are full of landscape and romance: they record his discovery of George MacDonald—a turning point in his life—and his first and characteristic delight in Chaucer, Scott, Malory, the Brontës, William Morris, Coleridge, de Quincey, Spenser, Swinburne, Keats.”
During the time in Great Bookham, Surrey noted in the memoirs by Warren Lewis, Lewis’s intellectual powers developed in lockstep with his imaginative acumen, both fueled by the natural beauty of the Surrey countryside.
Lewis worked hard as an academic and writer, but understood how vital the role of beauty played to nourish his pursuits.
The more I study Lewis and his writing, the more I find a man of simple yet robust tastes. A man who took the time to imbibe the simplicity of the beauty around him.
It was no frivolous pursuit. Beauty, as it turned out, was food for the soul.
Lewis enjoyed the habit of walking the garden before breakfast in order to drink in “the beauty of the morning, thanking God for the weather, the roses, the song of the birds, and anything else he could find to enjoy."
When was the last time you took a walk only to pick out the beauties surrounding you, thanking God for them? If you're anything like me, it's been too long.
You don't have to be a literary giant, a great philosopher, or wackadoo mystic to understand and appreciate beauty.
You just have to be willing to take a walk and, as Tolstoy says, look around you.