Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The one about Affection

Continuing the discussion of last month's book, today's love is Affection:

As gin is not only a drink in itself but also a base for many mixed drinks, so Affection, besides being a love itself, can enter into the other loves and colour them all through and become the very medium in which from day to day they operate. They would not perhaps wear very well without it. To make a friend is not the same as to become affectionate. But when your friend has become an old friend, all those things about him which had originally nothing to do with the friendship become familiar and dear with familiarity. As for erotic love, I can imagine nothing more disagreeable than to experience it for more than a very short time without this homespun clothing of affection. That would be a most uneasy condition, either too angelic or too animal or each by turn; never quite great enough or little enough for man. -- p. 35

This terrible need to be needed often finds its outlet in pampering an animal. To learn that someone is "fond of animals" tells us very little until we know in what way. For there are two ways. On the one hand the higher and domesticated animal is, so to speak, a "bridge" between us and the rest of nature. We all at times feel somewhat painfully our human isolation from the sub-human world- the atrophy of instinct which our intelligence entails, our excessive self-consciousness, the innumerable complexities of our situation, our inability to live in the present. ... But of course animals are often used in a worse fashion. If you need to be needed and if your family, very properly, decline to need you, a pet is the obvious substitute. You can keep it all its life in need of you. You can keep it permanently infantile, reduce it to permanent invalidism, cut it off from all genuine animal well-being, and compensate for this by creating needs for countless little indulgences which only you can grant. ... To be sure, it's all very bad luck for the animal. But probably it cannot fully realise the wrong you have done it. Better still, you would never know if it did. The most down-trodden human, driven too far, may one day turn and blurt out a terrible truth. Animals can't speak. -- p. 52

As I've often said, I always find something to which I can relate in my reading, as in that first paragraph. No, not the part about gin, I mean the part about erotic love without affection. I'm sure that many people, myself included, have had such an experience. I agree with Mr. Lewis that I don't much care for it.

I also get joy out of relating something I read to someone else, as in the second paragraph. It's most often a device on TV or in movies, the isolated individual turning to pets as a substitute for genuine companionship but I've known one or two people like this. I love that phrase excessive self-consciousness hinting at the curse it can be to be human, as we experience not mere self-consciousness, but excessive. I've written about this before, so by way of reminder if you've ever used the phrase "fur children" the second paragraph is about you. Crazy cat people.


At 9:00 AM, Blogger Zelda said...

This is why I never liked doing papers on C.S. Lewis. You could write for pages on just one of his phrases (for me it would have been "the atrophy of instinct which our intelligence entails").

At 4:23 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Z- Unless of course you're doing an English Comp paper on clever turns of phrase. I liked that one too.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Jammie J. said...

well, it's only because saying "fish children" seems so wrong. crazy fish people.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I think Affection is my favorite of the four loves.

"It is indeed the least discriminating of loves. There are women for whom we can predict few wooers and men who are likely to have few friends. They have nothing to offer. But almost anyone can become an object of Affection; the ugly, the stupid, even the exasperating. There need be no apparent fitness between those whom it unites." - p. 32

At 9:30 AM, Blogger tinyhands said...

J- At least fish have a personality ;)

Beth- It's just like that song Ebony and Ivory. How deep!


Post a Comment

<< Home