The Postman’s Knock

Not that this has much at all to do with life in Ukarumpa (I never promised everything I wrote here would), but Chapter 6 of the book I’m presently writing has been on my mind of late.  It includes (or will include, I should say) a handful of letters written back and forth between two young whippersnappers.  For inspiration, I’ve turned to C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Children – a marvelous collection if I do say so myself.

Lewis’ letters are full of the relevant:

Oh – I’d nearly forgotten – I have one other piece of advice.  Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do.  (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing.  I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them.  Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people.  Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping.  Things one likes doing – but of course I don’t know what you like.  Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day…

The winsome:

Dear Hila,

Upon my word, a statue of Reepicheep.  He stares at me from my mantlepiece with just the right mixture of courtesy and readiness to fight.  Thank you so very much.  It is very cold here now – not so cold as in N.Y., I expect, but then we have no central heating in College, so my fingers are hardly able to write.  I am so glad you liked the Silver Chair.  With all good wishes,

yours ever,
C.S. Lewis

The downright silly:

Dear Joan,

…I shall be glad when people begin talking about other things than Sputniks, won’t you?  One gets quite sick of the whole subject.  The pity is that some cosmic rays didn’t produce a mutation in the dog which would have made it super-rational: then it might have found its way back alive and started taking revenge on the humans!

Happy New Year.  Yours,
C.S. Lewis

And the revealing:

My dear Sarah,

Thank you for the beautiful little jar.  I am trying to think of some treasure choice enough to put in it.  I am also very ashamed of not having sent you a card this Christmas.  But I’ve really been snowed under… I have a very sick wife to visit daily in hospital.  At home I had to look after a sick brother, 2 schoolboy stepsons, one dog, one cat, four geese, umpteen hens, two stoves, three pipes in danger of freezing; so I was pretty busy and pretty tired.  Well, all good wishes to all of you and here’s a new-year’s gift.

With love,
C.S. Lewis

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Lewis’ many letters is that he wrote them at all.  Practically speaking (as the last one suggests) Lewis did not have much time to sit down and compose letters.  In fact, he himself wrote that the happiest life would be one where “a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.”  And yet he responded (joyfully, it appears) to almost every bit of mail he got.

Why?  To Lewis, it seems, the personal was always more important than the practical.  “May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”

6 thoughts on “The Postman’s Knock

  1. Funny, your comment on personal vs, practical comes on the day after I mailed you a package worth about $50, and cost $90 to send!…but you’re worth it:) Seriously though, practicality has won out, I’m ashamed to say, in decision-making in many issues in my life. However, I am seeing improvement (growth) in that area; may God in His great patience continue to work on me. Love.

  2. Wondrous stuff.

    “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
    ~ the fox in The Little Prince

  3. Wow, Alan! I love this stuff!! Thank you and I’m sharing some of it on fb! Haynes and Andy are visiting us in FL this weekend; we’ve talked about missing you! Love,
    Deede

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