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Monday, January 03, 2005

A cause worth living for

I have had so many conversations these last few days -at dinners and new year parties and even on email- with friends who were all feeling glum and more than a little guilty to be having fun and celebrating in a time like this. I must admit I was torn about it as well. This tragedy, especially, has hit so close to home for me. I am doing what little I could to help, but it hardly feels that I am doing enough.

I am reminded that, just after the horrible event in 2001, a friend sent me a transcript of C.S. Lewis's address to college students during WWI. His words, though spoken so long ago, ring true again today. Here is the timeless Mr.Lewis:

"The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life." Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil... turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes.
...
Thus we may have a duty to rescue a drowning man and, perhaps, if we live on a dangerous coast, to learn lifesaving so as to be ready for any drowning man when he turns up. It may be our duty to lose our lives in saving him. But if anyone devoted himself to lifesaving in the sense of giving it his total attention -- so that he thought and spoke of nothing else and demanded the cessation of all other human activities until everyone had learned to swim -- he would be a monomaniac. The rescue of drowning men is, then, a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for."

-- C. S. Lewis ("Learning in War-Time", in The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses)

Live, my dear friends. Be happy, enjoy your life with your loved ones. Pitch in with what you could to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami devastation, but don't forget to live. I hope Derrick will continue to wow us with his culinary wizardry, Clotilde charm us with her tales, Alder intoxicate us with his wines, and Heidi dazzle us with her gorgeous pictures.

We must do what we can to honor the deaths and help the injured, and then we must live.
This is certainly a cause worth living for.

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» Learning in War-Time from blog.sebb.org
There's always something great to read at chez pim. This time it's C.S. Lewis' speech during WW-I, "Learning in War-Time". I wish I could find a full transcript of his speech.... [Read More]

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