Lewis on Longing

Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory“If we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we will get in.”
Lewis wrote that the sight of the Castlereagh Hills from his nursery window would cause a beautiful aching, an inconsolable longing to arise within his heart. “They taught me longing,” he recalled. He felt the same feelings, he said, when viewing great works of art or reading powerful literature. As he analyzed these experiences, he defined them as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”
Lewis asked himself, even as an atheist, “what is it that I am longing for?” George MacDonald’s book, Phantastes, helped him make the first connection between his feeling of longing and Christianity.
Lewis found that no experience in this life completely fulfilled this longing or the desires it awakens in us. All we get are hints and guesses.
He queried in a letter to his friend Sheldon Vanauken (author of A Severe Mercy) on December 23, 1950: “Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or, if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don’t feel at home there?”.

In Mere Christianity, he concludes similarly,
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”   C. S. Lewis wrote of longing often.

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien had Gandalf try to explain it to Frodo. It ran through each of Charles Williams’ novels. It’s an experience we’ve all had from time to time.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the great compilation of quotes.

What passage were you thinking of when Gandalf discusses longing with Frodo? I would like to go and re-read it!

Blue Eyed Ennis said...

Wonderful. Thanks !

Arborfield said...

In a short exchange between Frodo and Gandalf, at a moment of great difficulty...

“I wish the ring had never come to me.” says Frodo. “I wish none of this had happened.”

“So do all who live to see such times,” replies Gandalf, “but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

And so for all of us, whether we look back on the past with satisfaction or longing for what might have been.