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    The Way

    October 27, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    This is the third week of our book club, if you feel sort of lost. Hey, I knew that and I still felt lost! The Way is the second chapter in Lewis’ short collection of lectures entitled The Abolition of Man.

    I found this lecture to be simultaneously depressing and encouraging, and I plan to spend my post figuring out how to communicate why that is.


    If I think about it too long, I feel like the world is falling apart around us. On every level, our culture seems to be on a decline, and a steep one at that. I know that part of this is simply a distorted picture of the world fed to us by news outlets who, for whatever reason, make a lot more money publicizing Bad News than they do Good News. I am always surprised at the good news I hear, and yet I think there is more of it than we realize; it simply goes unreported.

    But I digress.

    The decline we see around us, though, is real and I saw it described clearly when I read this essay. For instance:

    You say we shall have no values at all if we step outside the Tao. Very well: we shall probably find that we can get on quite comfortably without them. Let us regard all ideas of what we ought to do simply as an interesting psychological survival: let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.

    I was encouraged by all of this, though, on two levels. The first is that the Tao is almost inescapable. The second is that the Tao is inescapable.

    He he.

    Let me explain.

    First, Lewis makes it sound like no one can ever really get around the Tao, which is his strange choice of a word for what I often think of as The Way Things Are. It’s The Law–both natural and revealed–all in one. It is the reality to which we conform ourselves, or suffer the consequences. He makes the Tao sound like it is anywhere and everywhere and even when people try to reject it, they do so unsuccessfully most of the time.

    Goodness, one would almost think it was written upon our hearts or something.

    Oh wait.

    The only way to reject the Tao is to do as the above quote explains–reject all virtue and all values. All that is left is to do what I want because I want to, and even a lot of the time when a person follows this path, the Tao follows them, too, for it is the only thing keeping them from suicide.

    Secondly, Lewis explains something that has often baffled me. I have never understood how so many folks out there can use the Bible out of balance. What I mean is that the Scripture as a whole gives a whole picture. It is all we need for life and godliness, but this is more true when we know all of the Scriptures. When we know only a part, we only have part of what we need for life and godliness.

    So, for instance, I see folks who see the Church freely sharing all things and interpreting it as some sort of Biblical argument for a socialist government. Or I see someone noting that it is good to give food to the hungry, and using it as an argument for food stamps and welfare. I get confused because I know that the same Bible that said these former things also laid the foundation for property rights in the Ten Commandments, and told us that if a man will not work, then let him not eat.

    It’s not so simple, and I know it’s not so simple, so why does it seem that the Bible has become the latest victim of our sound-bite culture? Lewis made so much sense to me here:

    What purport to be new systems or {as they now call them} ‘ideologies’, all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess…The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.

    So I see now all the noise I hear swirling around in our culture is actually quite simple: It is an elevation of a part over and above the whole. People are willing to embrace a part here or a part there, but want to reject the whole to which it belongs.

    Very sad.

    And yet I see hope. Something inescapable like this is inescapable, you see, so even though I might feel like  good things are passing away, it is impossible.

    I also see hope in that when someone loves a part, even though he might reject the whole, yet he did find something lovable about the whole, and I wonder if he could not come to love the whole in the future.

    More book club entries linked at Cindy’s blog.

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  • Reply Silvia November 3, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Great analysis, Brandy.
    You left me thinking… if a person loves a part, could that person get to love the whole in the future?
    I’m not sure about it. We can leave a shortsighted life for ever, for what is worth.
    And even though the Tao or goodness will always be there, it can be truly damaged and ignored by many to the point of chaos, destruction, corruption… remember Sodom and Gomorrah. But like you, I see that much good is unreported, and there may also be points of strength in the Tao we are unaware because they are not part of the cultural noise.

    Great food for thought.

  • Reply Rahime October 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Due tomorrow. πŸ™‚ C-sect. scheduled for the 9th if I haven’t delivered by then (breech baby, so they won’t let me deliver naturally if she’s “too big”).

    Needless to say, I’m of the opinion that the sooner she comes, the better!

    I haven’t collected too many children’s books…well, other than the ones I’ve gathered over the years b/c I’m a book addict. πŸ™‚ I’m looking forward to browsing your archives through the upcoming years for suggestions & favorites though. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts October 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you! I thought it was time for some autumnal change around here. πŸ™‚

    I LOVE your new photo! So cute. When are you due again? We need to discuss my sending you some children’s books. Have you collected many? I’d like to contribute to the cause!

  • Reply Rahime October 28, 2011 at 6:03 am

    I love the new look. πŸ™‚

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