Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Humidifier, Screwtape Ch. 5 & 6

I turn into a baby when I get sick. Any far-reaching vision that I had of my life including other people is immediately extinguished and all I can see is myself and what hurts. I didn't leave the apt. for three days I think? and yesterday Caleb finally forced me out to take some DVDs back to the library and to go to Walgreens to buy a humidifier and some Wether's Originals. Then, a bunch of our friends came over for the weekly waffle night, and suddenly I was better. I still have a craving to watch The Princess Diaries, though. All of my sicknesses are accompanied by a craving to watch a different Disney movie. When I stepped outside yesterday, my eyes were like, "Whoa!! there are trees. They are really green and three-dimensional. There's color and wind. Whoa." Yeah, it was weird. I watched a lot of tv including the US Open semifinal round with Rafa and Murray. We watched this movie about the Madness of King George III with the guy who played Bilbo Baggins. I read Lisa Beamer's Let's Roll! book and C and I watched the two hour 9/11 documentary on Sunday night.

It's funny what happens when you're sick-- two really good friends called that weekend both of whom I hadn't talked to since May. I got emails from friends with requests to edit creative writing pieces. I missed the Portuguese night, and the Food for All at our church. Things get so busy when you don't feel like doing anything, but when you're well, nothing. I guess that's not totally true.

I have some great memories of my childhood vaporizer-- a giant dark brown tub with a white lid and the most delicious stream of cold air that you could point wherever you wanted. I remember the sound it made while it chugged along, spouting out air. That thing was awesome. The one we got doesn't hold a candle to it, and it makes weirder noises that wake you up in the night when you're trying to sleep so you can get better...

Anyway, here's the Lewis blurb for today. Chapter five is all about war. I find it interesting how much the environment created by the war described in ch. 5 differs from the way that we think of ourselves in a war in the U.S. Undoubtedly part of that is because of the way that war has changed since WWII, this war is not being fought within our borders, there is no draft. Most Americans probably don't wake up in the morning thinking "we're in a war." If everyone did wake up thinking that, maybe we wouldn't be in one.

Lewis has a great essay as part of his collection The Weight of Glory called "Learning in Wartime" in which he outlines thoughts similar to the ones in this chapter. One great insight from "Learning in Wartime" is that being in a state of war reveals to us the condition that we are always in. War keeps us from dissociating and in the mindset that we could die at any moment. "Normal life" is insular and creates a feeling of safety in individuals. Oh yes, of course everything will always go on in this way. But wartime shows us that we are always, always, on the brink of life and death. War puts us in that state of mind and ensures that we prepare our hearts for what could lie ahead. For this reason, Screwtape says that war benefits the Enemy (God):

Consider too what undesirable deaths occur in wartime. Men are killed in places where they knew they might be killed and to which they go, if they are at all of the Enemy's party, prepared. How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition! And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever. pp. 23-24

I love the phrase "contented worldliness" (If you take the phrase itself out of context, I would argue that  Lewis doesn't even believe there is such a thing because he knows that you can never be truly content by filling yourself up with the world because it is empty. Contented worldliness is a never-ending quest. See Lewis' book Surprised by Joy or my blog post about it from years ago). Here I think it means "the belief that life will go on as it always has" without the need to change anything or answer any serious questions.

This is not to say that the desired state for living is a constant state of non-dissociation. In one of my psych classes last semester, we talked about anxiety disorders stemming from an inability to dissociate. Example: every time you get in an elevator, you think it's going to plummet to the bottom. Every time you get in a car, you think it's going to crash. Every time you do something that has become normal in our society, but when scrutinized, could have potential dangers... I am actually very familiar with these types of fears. I am the only one who will go hide in the pantry when a tornado is near by.

I think Lewis is saying that for the fear to be brought up is a good thing in that it forces us to remember ourselves as temporal beings on earth. But, the fear is meant to bring you to a point of resolution i.e. trust in God and the knowledge that your spirit is safe with him in the event of disaster, emergency, or death.

In chapter six, he explains that we are not to conquer the thing we are afraid of, but only our fear of it. The fear coming to us is the true reality, while the "thing" we dread is still out there in the future and largely immaterial. "It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of" (pp. 25-26). Most of the things that I spend time being afraid of will never happen, and the real enemy is the fear itself, not the various scenarios I can concoct in my head. It is to my and our advantage to recognize when we are entering "a state of fear, anger or lust" so that we can then go in the other direction.

Reflection over, time to plan meals for the week and go to the store. Tune in next time for ch. 7 & 8...

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