Friday, July 03, 2009

C.S. Lewis's Delightful, Childlike Self-Forgetfulness

Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 2005), xxii-xxiii:
In most children but in relatively few adults, at least in our time, we may see this willingness to be delighted to the point of self-abandonment. This free and full gift of oneself to a story is what produces the state of enchantment. But why do we lose the desire--or if not the desire, the ability--to give ourselves in this way? Adolescence introduces the fear of being deceived, the fear of being caught believing what others have ceased believing in. To be naive, to be gullible--these are the humilitations of adolescence. Lewis seems never to have been fully possessed by this fear. . . .

One could say, then, that Lewis remained in this particular sense childlike--that is, able always to receive pleasure from the kinds of stories that tend to give pleasure to children. . . . Surely Lewis himself would have said that when we can no longer be "wide open to the glory"--risking whatever immaturity thereby--we have not lost just our childlikeness but something near the core of our humanity. Those who will never be fooled can never be delighted, because without self-forgetfulness there can be no delight, and this is a great and grievous loss.