Thursday, December 29, 2011

C.S. Lewis – Near the Journey’s End: II

On June 25, 1963 Lewis writes to Mary Willis Shelburne:

Tho’ horrified at your sufferings, I am overjoyed at the blessed change in your attitude to death. This is a bigger stride forward than perhaps you yourself yet know. For you were rather badly wrong on that subject. Only a few months ago when I said that we old people hadn’t much more to do than to make a good exit, you were almost angry with me for what you called such a ‘bitter’ remark. Thank God you now see it wasn’t bitter: only plain common sense.

[All excerpts from letters taken from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Walter Hooper editor, Harper San Francisco.]

In a recent meeting with clients whose real estate asset (an apartment community) I manage the subject of an “exit strategy” came up. An exit strategy in the real estate investment business is a plan to sell the asset at some point in the future so that the owners can recover their original investment in addition to making a profit on the sale of the property.

Some owners I’ve worked with over the years are not concerned about an exit strategy, they only see the “here and now” and bleed the property of cash flow without reinvesting money back into the property for upkeep and improvements – the value of such properties inevitably declines as a result of not preparing for the future. Smart owners take care of their properties and plan for the future, smart owners have an exit strategy.

A few years ago I read, The Question of God, by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., a Harvard professor. The subtitle of the book is, C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. If memory serves me well, according to Nicholi there was a marked difference between Freud and Lewis on death; Lewis lived his life in anticipation of death, Freud avoided the subject and was afraid of death. (Again, I’m relying on memory so please correct me if I’m off base).

In the business world it has long struck me that otherwise intelligent business people who are attuned to bottom lines and exit strategies in financial matters often avoid eternal realities, pretending they don’t exist.   

As I enter the 4th quarter (a reference to American football) of my own life, I’m keenly aware that this life is a pilgrimage and that my exit from this life is nearer than it was before. There are macro elements of our exit that we may have little control over; for example, Lewis wrote the above letter on June 25, on July 15 he would suffer a heart attack and lapse into a coma – in the context of 1963 I don’t know that Lewis had anything to do with this major event. On the other hand, Lewis, by God’s enabling grace, could choose to live each day in 1963 in prayer for others (prayer is a theme throughout his correspondence), in witness to others, in encouraging others, in caring for his stepsons and brother, in friendship, and in looking forward to his heavenly home. Lewis’s idea of making a good exit was not passive; it was being fully engaged in Christ and in others.

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