Here are some thought-provoking words from historian John Lukacs on education in recent decades as the “modern age” has begun to pass. “The age of institutional schooling was another feature … Continue reading John Lukacs on the custodial role of schools
Years ago, in something I wrote I described myself as a dinosaur–meaning, I felt like I was from a different time in my mind and spirit, an older time, a time now extinct. Today, I discovered someone else who saw himself as a dinosaur–my greatest literary hero, C.S. Lewis.
On November 29, 1954, some ten months before my birth, Lewis delivered his first lecture as a professor at Cambridge University. “The lecture was a brilliant performance acknowledged by an ovation rarely given to an academic, ” wrote George Sayer, a friend of Lewis’, in his book, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis. (p. 358)
Sayer says Lewis asserted that the “great divide in culture and civilization had taken place between the period of Jane Austen and the present day,” that being the mid-twentieth century. Lewis talked about the various changes during that period then “described himself as a member of the old order,” Sayer said. Then he quoted Lewis from the lecture. “… In order to read Old Western Literature aright you must suspend most of your responses and unlearn most of your habits you have acquired in reading modern literature,” Lewis said. More from Sayer:
“If his audience wanted to understand the past, specimens of old Western man should be useful to them, he [Lewis] said. ‘That way, where I fail as a critic, I may yet be useful as a specimen. I would even dare to go further. Speaking not only for myself but for all other Old Western Men whom you may meet, I would say, use your specimens while you can. There are not going to be many more dinosaurs.’ One undergraduate commented to me, ‘We were overwhelmed by his vitality and enthusiasm. I had never heard a lecture anywhere near as exciting. We discussed it until far into the night. For weeks afterwards you heard people describing themselves as “dinos.”‘” (p. 359)
So, to those who feel like dinosaurs in their own time, you are not alone. I do not know if we are becoming extinct. I do know that the words of one dinosaur, Lewis, served to certainly delay extinct and possibly even make survival possible.
While we may be dinosaurs in some sense, we can hope to be filled with vitality and enthusiasm. And, as everyone knows, people love dinosaurs.
That was written 60 years ago by Lewis Joseph Sherrill (The Struggle of the Soul, p. 1), but it’s still true.
He continues with a tough diagnosis of the civilization. Remember, this was written in 1951, six years after the end of World War II and before the start of the now-storied, God-and-family 1950s.
“And yet, on the other hand, modern society is producing, in vast numbers, persons who are rendered deficient because they cannot achieve precisely that kind of strength and maturity which our civilization demands. Instead, while the civilization is requiring one thing in the character of men, the society out of which that civilization has arisen tends to produce the very opposite in the character of men.
“Moreover, this disparity between the demands upon human character and the sufficiency of human character, seems to be growing steadily as we advance further into our century.” (p. 1)
Sherrill said Americans at the beginning of the 1950s lived “in a time of trouble,” that they were “harassed by uncertainty, heartbreak and despair.” (p. 2)
But the author could see a new possibility.
“In this time of trouble many, to whom religion has been outside the bounds of personal experience, have sought to find reasonable grounds for hope, only to discover, sometimes to their frank surprise, that their quest has brought them face to face with a Reality which they recognize as God, but a God with whom they do not know how to deal. Others are discovering that religion, as they know it , is not sufficient for the new demands which life is placing upon them. Still others, already at home in the religious life, are finding in religion greater resources than they have ever known before, and are drawing more deeply upon these resources in their day of need. When all such facts are put together and carefully examined, there is much to justify those who say that we are in a time of turning to God.
“But man’s turning to God may prove to be only one side of something whose other side has an even greater significance. Is it possible that God is now confronting man, in this modern world, with deeper demand and with more hopeful promise than any of us has been able as yet to apprehend? Here again there is much to lead one to believe that this may be so.” (p. 2)
Today, we live in a new time of trouble, often harassed by uncertainty, heartbreak, and despair. Could it be that we stand at the cusp of an opportunity for renewed vigor in regard to the things of God–loving God and loving others as ourselves? And could it be, as in 1951, this represents a reaching for connection both by men and women and by God?
May we all grow in character, strength and maturity today. And may we pray that a new day of God and family may be upon us.