Affection with Thanks to C.S. Lewis

Get ready, this one’s going to be long. I’ve been reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and I came upon this section under affection that helps me deal with people in my life. I hope since I’m not getting paid I can share it with whatever public I have, and I hope it helps some of you, too. Get ready for a huge quote:

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“It would be absurd to say that [King] Lear is lacking in Affection. In so far as Affection is need-love he is half-crazy with it. Unless, in his own way, he loved his daughtrs he would not so desperately desire their love. The most unlovable parent (or child) may be full of such ravenous love. But it works to their own misery and everyone’ else’s. The situation becomes suffocating. If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved – their manifest sense of injury, their reproaches, whether loud and clamorous or merely implicit in every look and gesture of resentful self-pity — produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit. They seal up the very fountain for which they are thirsty. If ever, at some favoured moment, any germ of Affection for them stirs in us, their demand for more and still more, petrifies us again. And of course such people always desire the same proof of our love; we are to join their side, to hear and share their grievance against someone else. If my boy really loved me he would see how selfish his father is … if my brother loved me he woudl make a party with me against my sister … if you loved me you wouldn’t let me be treated like this …

And all the while they remain unaware of the real road. ‘If you would be loved, be lovable,’ said Ovid. That cheery old reprobate only meant, ‘If you want to attract the girls you must be attractive,’ but his maxim has a wider application. The amorist was wiser in his generation than Mr. Pontifex and King Lear.

The really surprising thing is not that these insatiable demands made by the unlovable are sometimes made in vain, but that they are so often met. Sometimes one sees a woman’s girlhood, youth, and long years of her maturity up to the verge of old age all spent in tending, obeying, caressing, and perhaps supporting, a maternal vampire who can never be caressed and obeyed enough. The sacrifice — but there are two opinions about that — may be beautiful; the old woman who exacts it is not.

The ‘built-in’ or unmerited character of Affection thus invites a hideous misinterpretation. So does its ease and informality.

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simpy have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their eleders don’t, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously — sometimes of their religion — insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question ‘Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?’ Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?

If you asked any of these insufferable people — they are not all parents of course — why they behaved that way at home, they woud reply, ‘Oh, hang it all, one comes home to relax. A chap can’t be always on his best behaviour. If a man can’t be himself in his own house, where can he? Of course we don’t want Company Manners at home. We’re a happy family. We can say anything to one another here. No one minds. We all understand.’

Once again it is so nearly true yet so fatally wrong. Affection is an affair of old clothes, and ease, of the unguarded moment, of liberties which would be ill-bred if we took them with strangers. But old clothes are one thing; to wear the same shirt till it stank would be another. There are proper clothes for a garden party; but the clothes for home must be proper too, in their own different way. Simlarly there is a distinction between public and domestic courtesy. The root princple of both is the same: ‘that no one give any kind of preference to himself.’ But the more public the occasion, the more our obedience to this principle has been ‘taped’ or formalised. There are ‘rules’ of good manners. The more intimate the occasion, the less the formalisation; but not therefore the less need of courtesy. On the contrary, Affection at its best practices a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind. In public a ritual would do. At home you must have the reality which that ritual represented, or else the deafening triumphs of the greatest egoist present.  …

‘We can say anything to one another.’ The truth behind this is that Affection at its best can say whatever Affection at its best wishes to say, regardless of the rules that govern public courtesy; for Affection at its best wishes neither to wound nor to himiliate nor to domineer. You may address the wife of your bosom as ‘Pig!’ when she has inadvertently drunk your cocktail as well as her own. You may roar down the story which your father is telling once too often. You may tease and hoax and banter. You can say, “Shut up. I want to read.” You can do anything in the right tone and at the right moment — the tone and moment which are not intended to, and will not, hurt. The better the Affection the more unerringly it knows which these are (every love has its art of love). But the domestic Rudesby means something quite different when he claims liberty to say ‘anything’. Having a very imperfect sort of Affection himself, or perhaps at that moment none, he arrogates to himself the beautiful liberties which only the fullest Afffection has a right to or knows how to manage. He then uses them spitefully in obedience to his resentments; or ruthlessly in obedience to his egoism; or at best stupidly, lacking the art. And all the time he may have a clear conscience. He knows that Affection takes liberties. He is taking liberties. Therefore (he concludes) he is being affectionate. Resent anything and he will say that the defect of love is on your side. He is hurt. He has been misunderstood.

He then sometimes avenges himself by getting on his high horse and becoming elaboratley ‘polite’. The implication is of course, ‘Oh! So we are not to be intimate: We are to behave like mere acquaintaneces? I had hoped — but no matter. have it your way..’ ”

As you breathe a sigh of relief, I call a halt. Lewis doesn’t acutally say how to deal with someone like this in your life, but I think if we chew on it a while, that will become clear.  Thinking this through should do me a world of good, and I hope that it will also do some of you a world of good. Have a nice, thoughtful day.

 

Life

How’s that for a broad subject? Perhaps a little narrowing is in order.

The older I get the more I think I don’t know anything about anything.  Now there’s the topic.

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This is not me, but it could be.

I’m a writer, at least most days. Sometimes I get published, and sometimes I don’t. Am I still a writer when I don’t? Should I just smile and wash the dishes instead?  And since the Bible says what pleases God is when we love each other, care for widows, orphans, immigrants, and so on; are slow to anger, etc., does writing – or any other occupation – even matter? Maybe I should just smile and feed an orphan. I don’t know. My mentor, Ethel Herr, who now looks at Jesus face-to-face, said our books can reach love, acceptance, etc. to a whole lot more people than our small circles of influence. So if I glue my face to my computer and knuckle down, what happens to the hubs, the kids, the friends? Ecclesiastes even says the writing of books is endless.

Maybe it’s about balance. Except, my days can blow up in a phone call. Sometimes the writing bite is huge, and sometimes the relationship bite is huge. Wait, am I starting to see something here?

Or how about truth and grace? I used to think telling the truth could hurt the people I love or cause them to get real angry. So I didn’t bother with telling it, thinking I was giving them grace. I guess I have learned one thing. Grace isn’t grace without truth, and truth isn’t truth without grace. Only, now I have to figure out how to tell the truth in grace, and I don’t even think I’m capable of figuring that out. Wretched woman that I am.

Maybe what’s really going on is that my plans aren’t God’s plans, and my understanding of life, or any part thereof, is way smaller than God’s understanding. What to do? What if I consider interruptions, not interruptions, but redirecting from on high? But wait, am I just making excuses? What if when I don’t have a clue what to do, I ask God? What if He doesn’t answer? Reminds me of when the grownups used to say, “We’ll see.”

Okay, here I go again. I used to come up with great ideas and go into implementation phase before checking in with Him. I’d look over my shoulder, having left Him in the dust, and say something like, “What do you think, God?” He put up with that for a lot of years. Over time, I found myself confused and exhausted a lot. What’s the verse, “Come to Me, you who are weary,” etc.?  I finally noticed the “Come to Me” part of the verse. Take it from an old broad, it’s much better to check in first, get your marching orders, and then strike out.  If there are no marching orders, stay put. That’s easy. Writing this conclusion at Christmastime seems supremely appropriate, now that I think about it. Merry Christmas, every one!

Late, Very Late, Midlife Crisis

flowers fun girl hat

It’s my sister’s fault. (Does this type look really small?)

So, she told me about this set up where you dress based on your personality. You do your hair and makeup that way, too. I took the test. OK, it hit me right on the money. It said I’m a crash bar person. I like to get on with it. True that.

So I watched the videos, and they made sense. So I cleaned out my closet and got some new colors of Crocs and styles of clothes. Then I got a new haircut that moves and changed my makeup away from old lady makeup. I feel good, nah nah nah nah nah nah nah. (Hear the song?)

People are saying, “Hey, you look good.” I’m responding, “I’m having a late midlife crisis.” I guess midlife really is determined by how long you plan to live. I do not plan to live to 140, so mine’s late.

Now, how much does this matter? It’s a good idea to put your best foot forward, and my foot is looking a lot nicer, especially in the dusty rose Crocs. However, I’m still me, a daughter of God, and inveterate crashbar person. I still put my pants on one leg at a time, albeit in deeply colored pants. I may, however, be loving my neighbor a little more than I used to because spending a little love on myself makes it easier to spend some on my buddies.

Thanks, Sistiyounger!

Platformitis

In these days of rampant technology, writers are being advised to build a platform. This platform, according to the experts, should include a blog – written daily, or at least weekly; and Facebook, Twitter, instagram and some other “presences” I don’t recall the names of, posted with even more regularity; as well as speaking on the subjects about which we writers write. (Do you know how long it takes to prepare to speak?)  I believe this platform-building steals the hope of good writing, especially for those who wish to improve their writing over the course of their lives. There are, after all, only twenty-four hours in one writer’s day, and we all do have to get the dishes done or take out the trash.

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Interesting that I’m wiritng this in my blog–kind of an oxymoron in progress. No, not really, though, because it serves to clean my brain of a rant. I’ll just add this. When I was writing nonfiction, research was my biggest “distraction.”  Time-consuming, but far less than my current writing life, then I could spend a fraction of my time on platform.

Now that I’m trying my hand at fiction, there are so many skills  to learn, skills that build on each other and require neverending practice.  This polishing of a writer’s writing should take priority over platform building. If it doesn’t, my writing stands a good chance of being lackluster, ill-conceived drivel.

I know, because I have read others’ who I imagine spent the time they could have polished their fiction — you guessed it, building platforms.

So what to do? Publishers want the platforms so that readers will be drawn in. Makes sense. Perhaps they should consider helping  authors create and maintain their platforms. Or maybe agents should assist with that job? Or perhaps the frequency doesn’t need to be daily or weekly. I’m just advocating for putting the most, best time into the writing.

Rant End.

Brain Tornado

More frequently these days my brain flits from one subject to another so fast I can barely keep up. What’s up with that?  I can be thinking about dusting the living room, when suddenly my brain wants to go to Hawaii. Or maybe I’m deep thinking on the subject of balance and my brain switches to ignorance. That is not to say that I become ignorant, but that I consider the possibility that I really know nothing about anything. I guess that is the definition of ignorance, though, isn’t it. So where am I going with this? Looking for cohorts, I guess.

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I do begin to feel like there’s a storm forming in my cranium sometimes. And add someone else talking to the mix, and I am whirling, honest. So I wonder, is this because I have learned so much that my brain isn’t sure which thing to pick? Or could it be the beginning of some weird disease? Or is it that I have a lot of interests? Or do I need a shrink?

Maybe it’s the human condition. No, I don’t think so. I didn’t do this until this stage of my life. Wait, what about those times when three kids were all clamoring for my attention at the same time? Yeah, I had forgotten that. Or what about the days I had to study for tests in three classes on the same day. Yeah, there was that. Or what about the images that played in my mind when I waited for Christmas as a child. Holy smoke, I’ve always been like this! How about you?