I have been avoiding C.S. Lewis for awhile now, ever since I attempted Mere Christianity with little progress. He seemed dry and dull and far too intellectual – nothing like my experience with faith. But after prodding from a dear friend, “Give it a try, Cath. Trust me. It’s one of my favorites.”, I picked up the beautiful copy of Lewis’s The Four Loves that had sat on my bookshelf, unnoticed and certainly unloved.
There is nothing better than a beautiful book beside your bed, waiting for you to put the day aside and enter into someone else’s thoughts, even for a little while.
Here was a man I felt I had met before. What could a balding Anglican Brit have in common with a young American woman from the twenty-first-century? No longer did he seem like an emotionless intellectual, but he wrote like someone who had struggled with the same things I am working through. Lewis doesn’t leave his intellect behind in The Four Loves, but he uses it to delve into the human experience and show the manifestations of God’s love here on earth. He divides love into four categories – Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity – and shows the different aspects of God’s character in each. Of course, I enjoyed some more than others (who doesn’t like a good discussion of eros?), but the truth is, all four are interconnected. They overlap and share some of the beautiful qualities that make each one worthwhile, each one important to our fullness. “We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves,” Lewis says (215). This acknowledgment of our need, rather than making me actually feel needy, allowed me to breathe more deeply. So this desire I feel for communion, for friendship, for relationship with others, is good? It isn’t (necessarily) misplaced need? I’ve known for awhile that we were created to be in communion (who has spent any time at a Christian university WITHOUT hearing that?!), but here, now, finally, I can see why. A reflection of the Trinity, yes. But a window to the self, as well.
Pope John Paul II, in his “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year” reminds us:
For every individual is made in the image of God, insofar as he or she is a rational and free creature capable of knowing God and loving him. Moreover, we read that man cannot exist “alone” (cf. Gen 2:18); he can exist only as a “unity of the two”, and therefore in relation to another human person…Being a person in the image and likeness of God thus also involves existing in a relationship, in relation to the other “I” (III.7).
So I’m getting it from all sides, this interconnectedness, this relationship. I watched “Anne of Green Gables” last night, and I was immediately transported to girlhood. I remember longing for Anne’s idea of a”bosom friend,” a “kindred spirit,” and even now, as I watched and nearly quoted each line as it came, I realized that that is still what I seek. The difference is, though, that there are more kindred spirits than I thought (Anne says the same later on). I’ve found some in the strangest places – growing up down the street, studying the perplexing subject of English (what in the world is its use?!), living in my surprise apartment senior year of college. I even found one working at the tea shop.
I guess all that to say, love and its many forms continue to fascinate me. Affection and Eros, Friendship and Charity, they have such possibility, such potential to bring peace and hope and comfort. Kindred spirits are hiding just down the street, just at the next table, sipping their own cups of coffee and smiling to themselves as they read. They could have written books over fifty years ago, only to be discovered and appreciated by you so much later. They could also be burning their own granola.
To always be looking for those kindred spirits. That sounds like a good champagne toast to me.