// C. S. Lewis

One of C.S. Lewis’ best passages in the classic The Screwtape Letters today, focussing chiefly on time, perspective and eternity. In the event that you don’t know, the book is written from the perspective of a senior demon, and so any references to “the Enemy” refer to God…

He wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present…

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too – just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is now straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future – haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth – ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by doing so we make him think he can attain the one or the other – dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap on the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present…

What are your thoughts? Do you recognise yourself in that?

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    • Rob Hampson
    • October 20th, 2010

    I was just thinking about this subject this morning. It was good to hear Lewis’ thoughts on it. We can only make a difference in the present. Only through present action can we form the past or change the future. Also God also only blesses us in the present, we may have been blessed in the past and we may be blessed in the future but we can only receive blessings and offer gratitude in the present.

    I may read the Screwtape Letters again.

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