On March 19, 1955 Lewis writes to Mary Van Deusen:
I feel strongly, with you, that there was something more than a physical pleasure in those youthful activities. [Since we are only reading Lewis’s letter to Van Deusen we don’t know what she wrote in her letter to him. We are listening to one end of a phone conversation.] Even now, at my age, do we often have a purely physical pleasure? Well, perhaps a few of the more hopelessly prosaic ones: say, scratching or getting one’s shoes off when one’s feet are tired. I’m sure my meals are not a purely physical pleasure. All the associations of every other time one has had the same food (every rasher of bacon is now 56 years thick with me) come in: and with things like Bread, Wine, Honey, Apples, there are all the echoes of myth, fairy-tale, poetry, & scripture so that the physical pleasure is also imaginative and even spiritual. Every meal can be a kind of lower sacrament. ‘Devastating gratitude’ is a good phrase: but my own experience is rather ‘devastating desire’ – desire for that-of-which-the-present-joy-is-a-reminder. All my life nature and art have been reminding me of something I’ve never seen: saying ‘Look! What does this – and this – remind you of?’
I am so glad that you are finding (as I do) that life, far from getting dull and empty as one grows older, opens out. It is like being in a house where one keeps on discovering new rooms.
Lewis writes: but my own experience is rather ‘devastating desire’ – desire for that-of-which-the-present-joy-is-a-reminder. All my life nature and art have been reminding me of something I’ve never seen: saying ‘Look! What does this – and this – remind you of?’
Pascal tells us that we have a sense of longing, a sense of something higher, because we have fallen away from that to which we belong; because we are no longer that which we once were.
What Jeremiah wrote of the earthly Zion is transposed upward and downward regarding the heavenly Zion: How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! The holy stones lie scattered at the head of every street. The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how are they regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hands! Lamentations 4:1-2.
Madison Avenue evokes lust for things and debases us in covetous idolatry; we call it marketing and sales and consumerism. God draws us with desire and we traduce the desire and channel it toward lesser things – when oh if we would only follow the desire that God has placed within us to its Headwaters, to the Throne – to that which is above.