Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Quotable CS Lewis

Do writers and quotes just naturally go together? I don't mean are all writers eminently quotable; I mean do writers just need quotes in some way? To help us jell a theme, characterization, concept, or key moment in a plot or character arc? Do they help us get at the essence of truth? I think they do; at any rate, I know that when somebody nails a good statement it's as if I admire the idea, the verbal acuity, and feel that I've gotten a gift and made a connection, all at once.

Here are some quotes from CS Lewis, whom I'd definitely nominate for membership in Most Quotable Club, that have done one or more of these things for me:

"Friendship is born at that moment when one says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself..." Who can't recall moments like this? Aren't they golden? Wouldn't they make a great "moment when I knew so-and-so was my friend" in a story?

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to now one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness." Ouch. How true is that?

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." Has friendship been born, or what? :) (See the first quote.) The honest truth? I'd like to tell this to a few people on Goodreads.

"Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning..." I have nothing to add.

"The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only -- and that is to support the ultimate career." This is a Lewis quote that I never saw before until a week ago. We have to remember that the man died in 1963, back when you could say this. But this is exactly what I thought when I was a kid growing up. On an endless string of winter mornings I'd wake up to the radio my dad already had playing softly as he got ready for his day, and it would sing: "It's Cream of Wheat weather, we repeat; so guard your family with hot Cream of Wheat." And I'd think, "Oh, no, it's morning already, and it's Cream of Wheat weather on top of it!" I had to get up and get ready for school. My sister had to get up and get ready for school. My dad was already up getting ready for school. And we all had to leave the house with our snowpants and our mufflers and even our bag lunches if it was so bad we couldn't go home for lunch (which most kids did, but we did not walk uphill both ways, I promise, and I should add that my dad got to drive). My mom got up, too, and saw us off, made sure we had everything we needed, and got her own day started. But she didn't have to leave the house, and she was her own boss. Maybe it takes an introverted writer to really get off on this, but I knew which one of us four had the best deal. Mom the homemaker, I was completely convinced, had the ultimate career. And how I would love, love, love to believe that the other careers that exist are still in support of the homemaker, and the sacrifices s/he makes, and the very real financial risks s/he takes.

And all this helps answer my questions about quotes, I think, because when I began this post I had no idea I was going to write the above.  Good quotes are the pickaxes we need to tap into a fiction writer's ultimate goldmine: our emotional truth.

19 comments:

Dawn Malone said...

I had no idea Lewis was such a quotable author! I found myself nodding at all of these, yet I wonder how some of these ideas would be received today. Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Watson said...

I love the one about children's books -- probably because I feel so strongly in support of it. :-)

Mirka Breen said...

Writers craft ideas with words, so we appreciate quotations.

C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy was my introduction to him, before I ever read any of his children's books.

His was a channeling of the voice of truth. Lewis is very quotable. Thank you for these, today. Each one is a moment of friendship born for me.

Vijaya said...

I love CS Lewis and reading him is like being with a good friend. I love that "you too" moment! And I'd not ever seen the ultimate career quote! Does that ever resonate, esp. as a mother, writer, and introvert. In our home, everyone knows I got it good! Even in my 20s I dreamed of having a medical practice/lab in my home. Thank you so much for sharing these ...

Faith E. Hough said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. But I'm only going to remark on the last one, as it's one that seems to have been distilled as it's been passed around (which is probably why you hadn't read it before). Here is the original:
“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, 'To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour'. (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist…” (pg 447-Letters of CS Lewis 1988 ed.)

Kelly Polark said...

Love these!!!

Leandra Wallace said...

I would be a housewife in a flash if I could be. Well, I still am, but all the extra hours away doing the 'other' job just make it all the harder to keep up w/the housewife work! Ah, well, maybe one day! And yes to quotes, they're the best.

Marcia said...

Dawn -- I'm sure the last one would raise plenty of eyebrows today.

Barbara -- Me too!

Mirka -- I think I read the Narnia series first, then Mere Christianity.

Vijaya -- I'm always fascinated by those who can reconcile faith and academia. Deep thinkers!

Faith -- I love the third sentence in that quote. Yes, don't we run to and fro all over the earth so that we can make happy homes?

Kelly -- And he's got so, so many more.

Marcia said...

Leandra -- Yeah, it's always a balancing act with another job.

Heather Kelly said...

Great quotes, great food for thought. And even though people have Feelings about Homemaking, I feel like all of those quotes (including the homemaking one) are timeless. We all want to create a home--a soft place for our family to fall--whether we are working outside of the home or not, whether we are men or women. And I think that quote really says that.

Kelly Hashway said...

These are great quotes. I actually have a book of great literary quotes. I used it a lot when I was teaching language arts.

Marcia said...

Heather -- I completely agree. That is what the quote means.

Kelly -- I can see why. Quotes are so thought-provoking.

Janet Johnson said...

I really do agree with you that Homemaker is the ultimate career. I feel so lucky to be doing it. Though writing does cut into that job a bit. :)

And C.S. Lewis really is amazingly quotable. He just seemed to get it.

Marcia said...

Janet -- It's one of my great satisfactions in life that I got to be a homemaker too. And I do think CS Lewis understood a lot. I'm glad he shared it.

Bish Denham said...

I absolutely agree with you, the homemaker is the bedrock of society. I admired my mother so much for always being where I could find her. She loved her "job."

Once a friend said to her, "Whenever I come over I always find you on the floor playing with your kids."

Is there a better place to be?

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Great quotes.
One of the greatest blessings of my life was being a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.

Marcia said...

Bish -- That's wonderful. A lot of moms of that day focused on housework first. My mom read to us.

Ruth -- Mine, too. Actually, we couldn't afford it, but to us it was nonnegotiable so I did it anyway. And when you subtract the costs of working from what I probably would have made, it just was NOT worth it for so many reasons.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Great quotes. I hadn't seen the one about the homemaker either. Also hadn't seen and LOVED the one about children's stories not just being for children. If it's a story that will stand the test of time that is certainly true.

Marcia said...

Kim -- Yes, I always cringe at the type of book review that says, "I know this is supposed to be for kids, but I liked it." :P