Three Great Men Died That Day
November 23, 2016 13 Comments
Fifty-three years ago yesterday, three great men died. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, and C.S. Lewis author of innumerable works, including the Narnia Chronicles. Is it important that they all died the same day? Probably not, merely a coincidence, although books have been written about what they may have talked about on the journey to the afterlife.
Huxley’s Brave New World most famous amongst his works seems to me, and many others, as the most descriptive of the dystopian novels, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. It always repays reading.
Kennedy has become more myth than man, whether one thinks he was a great president or a pretty bad one. In truth, I think he was pretty average, he (and his father) played much about his heroism in World War II, but even as a child, I wondered how one managed to get one’s PT boat rammed by an enemy destroyer. And only fifteen years after the war, World War II heroes (real or manufactured) were a dime a dozen.His greatest accomplishment was when for 13 days the world stood on the brink of annihilation over Russia’s deployment of missiles in Cuba. He ( and Kruschev) managed to avert that. But would it have happened if he had either supported properly or forbidden the Bay of Pigs? I doubt we’ll ever know that.
Personally, I think Lewis was more important than either. His coming to Christianity and the muscular Christianity showcased in Narnia and his other books is one of the best series of works in Christianity to my mind. He explains in words that an average child can understand what we believe, and yet, for me, the delight is as great now in my sixties as when I fist read them as about an eight-year-old. As I grew older, I came to delight in his language and the logic behind it, and neither has that delight ever left me.
Here is an example.
Perhaps some of Chesterton’s words from the Ballad of the White Horse could symbolize that day
They shall not come with warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.
“Not with the humour of hunters
Or savage skill in war,
But ordering all things with dead words,
Strings shall they make of beasts and birds,
And wheels of wind and star.
“They shall come mild as monkish clerks,
With many a scroll and pen;
And backward shall ye turn and gaze,
Desiring one of Alfred’s days,
When pagans still were men.
“The dear sun dwarfed of dreadful suns,
Like fiercer flowers on stalk,
Earth lost and little like a pea
In high heaven’s towering forestry,
—These be the small weeds ye shall see
Crawl, covering the chalk.
“But though they bridge St. Mary’s sea,
Or steal St. Michael’s wing—
Though they rear marvels over us,
Greater than great Vergilius
Wrought for the Roman king;
“By this sign you shall know them,
The breaking of the sword,
And man no more a free knight,
That loves or hates his lord.
“Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And Man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.
“What though they come with scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them,
That they ruin and make dark;
“By all men bond to Nothing,
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed,
Too blind to be abhorred;
“By terror and the cruel tales
Of curse in bone and kin,
By weird and weakness winning,
Accursed from the beginning,
By detail of the sinning,
And denial of the sin;
“By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast of the world,
And the end of the world’s desire;
“By God and man dishonoured,
By death and life made vain,
Know ye the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again—
“When is great talk of trend and tide,
And wisdom and destiny,
Hail that undying heathen
That is sadder than the sea.
“In what wise men shall smite him,
Or the Cross stand up again,
Or charity or chivalry,
My vision saith not; and I see
No more; but now ride doubtfully
To the battle of the plain.”