“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” This quote is from C.S. Lewis’ essay, The Weight of Glory, published in 1941. It is one of my favorite quotes. I love it because it points to how much more there is to our human condition than what we see around us. We are fooled by instant gratification when the reward offered by eternal living is so much greater. It is an essay about heaven and glory that I re-read recently, longing to fill my head with more timeless ideas and writing than I usually seek out from my time on the computer. Here are some reflections on some of my favorite quotes from it.
“To please God...to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness...to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
“Look at me, Mommy!” I hear this many times a day. When learning to swim, when building something with Legos, or even when simply sitting on the couch, my son is desperate for my attention. He wants me to notice him. He wants me to be proud of him. Could it be that the childlike desire to make someone proud actually points to the eternal? To a God who delights in us? Who, at the end of days, longs to says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” What joy can be found when we focus on the activities He has told us to do, knowing that it makes Him proud?
“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.”
There is so much breath-taking beauty to be found in nature. I can gaze at sunsets, oceans, trees, flowers, mountains, and stars to the point that I become oblivious to what else is going on around me. When that gaze is broken, I have a sense of sadness. I want the beauty to last. I take pictures to try to remember and make it something I can carry with me. Could it be that this appreciation of beauty, this desire to gaze at it, helps me understand what glory is? That the beauty of nature is a reflection of the glory of its Creator in the same way that we are meant to reflect His glory? Will I one day be as beautiful as a sunset?
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
I can have compassion on someone going through difficult life circumstances once I know his or her story. But when someone brings 20 items into the 10 item check out or is rude to me on a customer service line or asks me for money when I am in a hurry to get somewhere, I can easily forget that they are a person. What a challenge to remember that each person on this earth is an eternal being, with the potential of splendor beyond my imagination. How can that change the way I interact with others in the simplest of life circumstances?
I am inspired by C.S. Lewis’ words. I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and read this essay in its entirety (It’s only 9 pages). If you’re like me, you may have to re-read sentences and paragraphs a few times to really understand them. My brain is not used to its’ theological yet poetic phrasing. But it is worth muddling through.
If you read it, I would love to hear from you. What did you find thought-provoking? Anything you disagreed with? Any favorite quotes?