Saturday, October 1, 2011

C.S. Lewis on Praise

New Harvest Moon

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Before the loaf, the snowy white flour
Before the flour the mill.
Before the mill the wheat and the shower,
The sun and Our Father's will.

I have been reading a collection of C.S. Lewis essays called Reflections on the Psalms. I've read a few other pieces of Lewis' non-fiction work, letters and essays, and greatly enjoy them all. He and I may differ quite significantly in some aspects but I do love reading him. I would love to have him as a neighbor or great uncle to visit with, drink tea and listen to him ramble on about God and life and such.

In his rambling on about the Psalms he comes to the issue of praise of God. He says that he never used to understand the commandment to praise God or the way some people seems to be bargaining with God through praise. He finally came to a realization that praising god is the scaled up version of the praising we do of all good things in our lives. "It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch. " We express our delight and enjoyment because that expression makes the enjoyment full. We delight and enjoy God and so can't help but exclaim that joy in words, songs and actions of praise.

Lewis makes the point that this praise is not only natural, but it is evidence of health. "The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal: the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all." A healthy attitude towards life leads to praising earthly experiences so a healthy attitude towards the divine would equally lead to robust and genuine praise of God. The question I have, though, in light of this current Harvest Moon, is which is the seed and which is the harvest? The healthy attitude or the genuine praise?

For our daily bread we thank the Father
We thank the sun and the moon and the stars
We thank the wind and the frost and the rain
We thank the earth, we thank the grain
The thank the beasts and all farming men.

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude, complaining, cynicism and acceptance lately. I've been more and more annoyed by negativity I see in people around I have been making an effort to not take part in that talk or thinking myself. I made a New Water Year resolution to not complain about the weather, a resolution I joke will lead me to an abnormally high level of complaining about my clothes. But then I think, clothes are something I can change so it's OK to critique them, the weather is not. Many great thinkers from Gautama Buddha to Viktor Frankl to Thomas Jefferson have said that attitude is the key to a fulfilled life. There is a space between what happens to us and how we react and in that space we make a decision about how we will react and what we will believe about the action. This is a space for optimism, for gratitude and for god.

I still wonder, though, which is the seed and which is the harvest? Do we have a steady bearing in the world because we make space for gratitude and praise in between events and reactions, or does a good attitude cause the space to open up? Maybe, like so many other complex systems, it is a matter of both elements playing a part. We nudge the system from whatever part of it we happen to be standing at in the moment - giving thanks when we want to complain, or inserting praise into the space we feel at the moment in between.

The seed and root beneath the earth,
The willful growing shoot,
The hopeful bud and flow'ring blossom
Turned to glowing fruit.
We thank the earth who grew this food from little bursting seeds,
And the keepers of the earth whose gifts fulfill our needs.

What harvests are you celebrating this month? Are you seeing a harvest in attitude, thanksgiving or relationship with god or is that a future harvest you are sowing for now? How is your garden winding up? Have you found any fruit trees in the neighborhood or great deals at the green grocer? How do you give thanks when you really just want to complain?

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New Harvest Moon 2009: The Harvest Moon is New

Apparently I didn't post a New Harvest Moon post in 2010, but I did post Harvest Moon during that month.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing, brilliant sister,

I couldn't be more grateful for you writing on these topics. All are very very dear to me. I hope that I will be able to respond more fully in November. For now, know that your words have touched me deeply.

Love, Elysia