Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Four Loves

I'm reading C.S. Lewis again. You all know what's coming.
I can't sleep tonight because I had a lot of coffee around suppertime, so I'm filling up some time till I get sleepy.
I'm only on the first chapter of this Four Loves book, and already I feel this peculiar rush as I read each sentence. It's like every sentence satisfies some violent thirst I didn't know I had, or that had arisen at the previous punctuation.
I'm going to put in a piece I found particularly refreshing. (Edited to preserve coherence.)

For some people, perhaps especially for Englishmen and Russians, what we call "love of nature" is a permanent and serious sentiment. I mean here that love of nature which cannot be adequately classified simply as an instance of our love for beauty. Of course many natural objects - trees, flowers and animals - are beautiful. But the nature-lovers whom I have in mind are not very much concerned with individual beautiful objects of that sort. Nor are they looking for "views" or landscapes. While you are busying yourself with that critical and discriminating activity you lose out on what really matters - the "moods of time and season", the "spirit" of the place.

It is the "moods" or the "spirit" that matter. Nature-lovers want to receive as fully as possible whatever nature, at each particular time and place, is saying. The obvious richness, grace and harmony of some scenes are no more precious than the grimness, bleakness, terror, monotony, or "visionary dreariness" of others. The featureless itself gets from them a willing response. It is one more word uttered by nature.They lay themselves bare to the sheer quality of every countryside every hour of the day. They want to absorb it into themselves, to be coloured through and through by it.

If you take nature as a teacher she will teach you exactly the lessons you had already decided to learn; this is only another way of saying that nature does not teach. The tendency to take her as a teacher is obviously very easily grafted on to the experience we call "love of nature". But it is only a graft. While we are actually subjected to them, the "moods" and "spirits" of nature point no morals. Overwhelming gaiety, insupportable grandeur, sombre desolation are flung at you. Make what you can of them, if you must make at all. The only imperative that nature utters is "Look. Listen. Attend."

I won't go on and on about this writer any more. These sensations do not have suitable adjectives.

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