Thursday, August 27, 2009

Love and competition

In 1942 Christian writer C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters. The book is a series of “letters” between Screwtape, a senior demon and his nephew Wormwood, a junior demon about how to ensure the damnation of people. Lewis makes some chilling observations in the book about many subjects including love and marriage. In this passage “the Enemy” is God and “our Father” is the devil.

The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and the novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually short lived experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent, and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding. This is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy.

The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses….’To be’ means to ‘be in competition’.

Lewis seems to have nailed the basis of the struggle in the current culture with marriage 67 years ago.


Elusive Wapiti said...

Wow. I need to re-read the Screwtape Letters.

Lewis is right on: our present fight centers around "love" as a duty to pursue the best interests of another, or "love" as a biochemical feeling of excitement.

Or to use crude PUA lingo, vag tingle.

Thanks for posting this Learner. Lewis was before his time, for certain.

BTW how's your hunt going?

SA said...

I've said many times before. Actual love is not a feeling. It would be better described as a decision supported by action.

Ame said...

very profound and true.

Learner said...

The Screwtape letters is a very insightful book...I plan to post more snipets.

BTW how's your hunt going?

Funny you should ask... I have been getting to know an excellent man this summer so it seemed the "hunt" was going very well. Better than I expected because in many ways he is an excellent match for me. I thought that maybe I found "him" (actually I guess it was that he found me). But in the last few days he has come to the conclusion that the recent changes in his life circumstances (and they are major changes to be sure) preculde him from further engaging in a romantic relationship with me at this time. So, I am feeling pretty sad.

Puting yourself "out there" is risky, but I still think it is worth the risk. And, the way that this man interacted with me and treated me was a very healing experience for me. I hope that perhaps in the future things may work out for us but it does not seem that at this moment he is very hopeful about that. I think I need to trust God with the future and focus on finishing my dissertation.

Learner said...


DC Talk had a song called "Love is a Verb" that indicated the same idea. It is about action.

Learner said...


Lewis is one of my favorites for sure. He is very profound and yet very human at the same time.

Jesse said...

The Screwtape Letters is a great read, one of my personal favorites. A few years ago some friends and I tried to start a reading group of sorts, with that being the first book. Unfortunately the group never really went anywhere beyond that, but The Screwtape Letters a very easy and thought-provoking read for group discussions. I very much enjoyed it and have read it a couple more times since...

Elusive Wapiti said...

Learner I do hope it turns out well. I'm sorry that this fellow who treated you well doesn't seem to be the one.

Yes, putting yourself out there is a risk, for the both of you. I guess you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. Have you tried dating sites? Mrs Wapiti and I met via eHarmony.

So I guess if marriage is your goal, you should probably aim to finish your time in the Iron Maiden (er, dissertation) and find yourself a quality guy who wants a quality gal for a wife.

Believe me, they are there...most are probably divorced, which means that unfortunately you may be looking at a complementary membership in the second wife's club...but if you can hang with having a permanently dimmed view of members of your own sex, then those guys may not be too bad.

Learner said...

A discussion group on The Screwtape Letters is a great idea! I will have to mention that to my home group ladies.

Learner said...


Thanks. I do want to marry and have pretty much always felt that way....I even put off persuing the PhD hoping to meet someone in the 'waning years of my fertility', though that did not happen. I think I am just a bit of a rough fit in that my faith is very important to me, I value intelligence in a mate, and I am not very conventionally attractive. Each of those factors (and others as well, like my *cough* age *cough*) cuts down the available pool of possible matches for me.

I believe there are good men out there who could be interested in me and I remain optimistic (though my unflagging optimism is currently "flagging" just a bit). I would not shy away from a man just because he is divorced, any more than I would shy away from a never married man. I think it depends on the individual.

I have tried EHarmony before but I have mixed feelings about it. Like you and Mrs. W, both my sister, and my friend Ame who comments here, met their husbands on EHarmony. I have met a few men from there as well, though none of those worked out. More significant than that though is that I met the man who injured me last year through EHarmony so that has kind of caused me to be leary of that route (though I think I would be no more likely to meet a "bad" guy like that on EHarmony than any where else).

Right now I am not ready to give up hope on or emotionally let go of "Mr. sure seems like a great match for me" just yet, so I will focus on the "Iron Maiden" (heh...good analogy) and see what happens in the next 6 months or so.

Learner said...

Then again, maybe I put off "pursuing" the PhD because I cannot spell :)