Sunday, January 01, 2012

C. S. Lewis on the Hell of Not Loving

As we start a new calendar year, there is no more important topic than love. So I begin with St. Clive, and his associated reflections. 

C. S. Lewis wrote Four Loves and reflected on the different Greek words for love (storge or affection, philia or friendship, eros or romantic love, and agape or gift-love). In it, he reminds us that the nature of loving someone is that it opens us up to pain, but that the pain is worth the greater good of love. To not love is ultimately hell... and, really, that's not a bad definition of hell, separation from God, the place where there is no love.
Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead to suffering.’ 
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such prudential ground—because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving?... One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates…. 
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.’
How's that for a definition of hell and a reminder of the importance, and cost, of love?

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