Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Gift of Friendship

I've been reading this book about C.S.Lewis and Tolkien and their friendship. It also talks about the Inklings the group that Lewis started to discuss literature. They would read what they were writing and make suggestions. I gather some of them got tired of rewrites from Tolkien on his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, but Lewis supported him until it was published. After Lewis died Tolkien talked about how he would never have finished The Lord of the Rings if it had not been for Lewis.

They both lost their mothers at an early age and Tolkien also lost his father. They both had brothers they were close to. Lewis loved the Irish countryside of his childhood and used it as a model for Narnia. Tolkien also loved the English countrtyside of his youth which showed up as the Shire in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. They both loved the beauty of nature and abhorred the machine age. Tolkien shows that in The Lord of the Rings when the Shire was devastated and turned into an industrial town and also in Saron cutting down the trees. They talked for long hours about their mutual love of northern myths and wanted to make fantasy appeal to adults. Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis's conversion. They didn't agree on everything and were very different in some ways. Tolkien was a Catholic and Lewis became a Protestant. Tolkien felt that Lewis was popularizing Christian belief, when he did a series for BBC which became the book "Mere Christianity", and didn't approve. Their relationship began to wane about the time Lewis met Joy Davidson and when Lewis married her Tolkien didn't know for some time. Lewis knew that Tolkien wouldn't approve as she was divorced. In spite of some differences when Lewis died Tolkien was bereft, he had lost a good friend, one who understood in a way that others didn't.

The last chapter in the book summed up their relationship but it was so complex that I still don't understand it all. I love this last quote that the author ended the book with written by Lewis about friendship-

       "Those are the golden sessions...when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze
        and our drinks at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens
        itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but
        all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection
        mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life-natural life-has no better gift to give. Who could deserve it?"

One of the things I got out of this book was how unique they each were and how they each had a gift to give the world. They helped each other in different ways. Without their friendship we might not have those gifts. I think the lesson I got from them is to be yourself, not what others want you to be and to give whatever gift you've been entrusted with to give. Also how important other people are in supporting those gifts and helping them to come forth. Sometimes people need encouragement and someone to say keep going, don't give up.  The question and challenge is have I/we learned who we are and what unique things we have to give, or are we too busy trying to be what others think we should be. I have fought this tendency all my life and I am probably the most me I have been, but there are still depths to prob, things for God to reveal. Lewis and Tolkien both were giving people in their own ways, but they needed a lot of solitude for their work. Cherishing the gifts that God has given I think is honoring God, but we also need to let other people in and use those gifts.

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