21 October 2009

Screwtape's Ill Will for the New Year

From CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. In this book, Screwtape, a senior demon, instructs junior demon Wormword about how to keep a recent convert to Christianity from living in the Present. The excerpts here are from Screwtape Letters, Letter XV. Instructive words for bringing in the New Year if we pay attention to the message imbedded within.

" (It is) undesirable to have people look at the present or past. (For) nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. The Present is the point at which Time touches eternity. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, (this) duty, like all duties, is in the Present. (God’s) 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. --- [Screwtape wishes man to be constantly worried about the future and focus on the present only as it serves as a buffer to his imagined and feared future. He warns that:] “ …the Past is frozen and no longer flows, the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.” [And so Screwtape instructs it is preferable if:] “ …the 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 the altar of the Future every gift which is offered (humans) in the Present.” ---- [Screwtape is afraid that man may actually attack an uncertain future in a way unacceptable to the demon world. By:] “…praying for all the virtues wherewith to meet them, and meanwhile concerning himself with the Present because there and there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge and all pleasure dwell.”