A Place for Fellowship with Like-Minded People
I was thinking about this site's Mission Statement, specifically about a place to go for spiritual input and fellowship with like-minded people. A couple of us were talking about the atmosphere when sitting with friends enjoying a nice glass of wine, a cold beer, or a dram of nice Scotch and talking about the thoughts, wonderments, joys, victories and blessings we have in this life. and I thought about something I also read about C.S. Lewis and his close friends. It's the same and it's different ...
"Lewis’s entire life, early and late, was marked by sustaining friendship. But right in the middle of his life, at the very heart of it all, was a group of fellow writers called the Inklings. The group started informally—Lewis and Tolkien found that they greatly enjoyed one another’s company, and so they cultivated the habit of meeting on Monday mornings for beer and conversation. Lewis wrote about it in one of his letters: 'It has also become the custom for Tolkien to drop in on me of a Monday morning for a glass. This is one of the pleasantest spots in the week. Sometimes we talk English school politics: sometimes we criticise one another’s poems: other days we drift into theology or the state of the nation; rarely we fly no higher than bawdy and puns.'
"Lewis and Tolkien continued to meet, week after week, to talk and joke and criticise one another’s poetry. Over time, these literary critiques proved to be so interesting and so useful that they invited other writers to join them. The group just kept growing. Eventually, a total of 19 became members of the Inklings.
"When half a dozen members had assembled, Warren Lewis would produce a pot of very strong tea, the men would sit down and light their pipes, and C. S. Lewis would call out, 'Well, has nobody got anything to read us?' Someone always did. Out would come the rough draft of a story or a poem, and the others would settle down to listen, to encourage, to critique, to correct, to interrupt and argue and advise. They’d continue this way, reading aloud, energetically critiquing, until two or three in the morning. And meetings went on like this every week for nearly twenty years.
"The range of manuscripts that the Inklings brought to meetings was rich and remarkable. Lewis read Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and others, many of them chapter by chapter as they were written. He read some of his poetry, including 'Donkey’s Delight,' and, at one point, he shared a long section of his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. He also read The Screwtape Letters to the group, and the Inklings loved them. According to one of the members, The Screwtape Letters 'really set us going. We were more or less rolling off our chairs.'
"Tolkien brought along each new chapter of The Lord of the Rings, week after week as they were written. He also shared original poetry, excerpts from 'The Notion Club Papers,' and sections from The Hobbit. Others read poetry, plays, literary studies, academic papers, biographies, histories. Charles Williams read his novel All Hallows’ Eve; David Cecil read excerpts from his biography Two Quiet Lives; Owen Barfield read a short play about Jason and Medea; Warren Lewis read The Splendid Century, a history of France.
"Listening to drafts and offering energetic feedback occupied the better part of every Inklings meeting. Nothing could be more simple—a small group of tweedy British men, meeting week after week in Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College, sitting on the shabby grey couch, drinking, reading and talking. But as they met throughout the 1930’s and 40’s, extraordinary things began to happen. They generated enormous creative energy. They forged strong personal connections. And together, they helped bring to light some of the greatest literary works of this past century.
"Lewis was effusive in expressing his appreciation for the Inklings. To emphasize their importance, he said, 'What I owe them all is incalculable.' And to emphasize their enjoyment, he asked, 'Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?' Lewis was a man with friends. And a man with friends who made a difference."
This is his final essay: "I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In some others' eyes, my life is the epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have paled and become meaningless in the face of my death.
You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you. Material things lost can be found or replaced. But there is one thing that can never be found when it's lost - Life. Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down.
Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others. As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down - you go down with it.
Therefore, I hope you realize when you have mates, buddies, and old friends, brothers, and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness! Don't educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise, you have to eat medicine as your food.
There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!
The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.
I remember CS Lewis talking about the palpable lack he felt in those meetings of the Inklings after Charles Williams died. It wasn't just a matter of missing a dear friend; it was that his particular contribution to the whole group was a key ingredient in making it what it was. He was both a contributor of content and a catalyst that brought content out of others.
And I think that is one of the beauties and mysteries of what it means to be church. Each of us are literally members one of another and we really do have an effect on each other that is not just a figure of speech. And that group dynamic is far deeper and way more complex than the human body, marvelous as that may be. Just imagine: we are each living stones, being fashioned after the likeness of The Cornerstone, the truly living stone that gives life to us all, and the idea behind our being assembled together is so that we might be a "habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). That boggles my mind.