Monday, July 24, 2006

Insights from Out of the Silent Planet

I am not posting much just now because I am focusing on making progress with a writing project. However I wanted to go ahead and post a lengthy quote from C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. I have just recently begun reading Lewis’ science fiction, and I really enjoyed this book. Lewis’ views on life emerge naturally in his stories. I have found this reading to be a good example of the value of reading a wide range of sorts of books.
In this scene, the protagonist (man or ‘hman’) is talking with a being on Malacandra (Mars). The ideas here on the value of memory, holistic view of life, the value of poetry, and even realistic appreciation of the place of danger in life are all helpful.

“ ‘But it takes his whole life. When he is young he has to look for his mate; and then he has to court her; then he begets young; then he rears them; then he remembers all this, and boils it inside him and makes it into poems and wisdom’ . . . . ‘A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The seroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then – that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?’

‘And indeed,’ he continued, ‘the poem is a good example. For the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only by means of all the lines after it; if you went back to it you would find it less splendid than you thought. You would kill it. I mean in a good poem.’” (73)

“And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back – if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?”

“How can I make you understand, when you do not understand the poets?” (75)

“I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes.” (75)

Added Note: By the way, I found my inexpensive copies of Lewis’ trilogy at Refiner’s Fire Books, in Louisville, KY owned by my good friend Ron Sloan.


Aspinwall said...

When you get to "That Hideous Strength" you'll see Lewis' take on academia. Very perceptive!

Ray Van Neste said...

Indeed! The reason I began the trilogy is specifically to get to his discussion of academia in That Hideous Strength. :)

Crrrrrrraig said...

Here's a link for some ideas on that very subject:

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks for this link! When I noticed it was written by Walt Padelford I became especially interested! Once I read That Hideous Strength I look forward to reading Walt's thoughts on it.