Tuesday, November 22

The day the muses died

Between Heaven and Hell
On Nov. 22, 1963 three influential men and authors died: author Aldous Huxley, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and author C. S. Lewis.

The world was so shattered by Kennedy's assassination that the other deaths were barely noted at the time, so I thought I'd take a moment to think of all three.

Huxley was an English writer best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays. Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Huxley spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death.

Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. He was the youngest elected to the office and the first president to have been born in the 20th century. Kennedy is the only Catholic president, and is the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Events during his presidency included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early stages of the Vietnam War.

Lewis, known to his friends and family as "Jack," was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist. He is known for his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy.

Today The Episcopal Church and I remember Lewis:
O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with thy joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

On November 22, 1963, three great men died within a few hours of each other: C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley. All three believed, in different ways, that death is not the end of human life. Suppose they were right, and suppose they met after death. How might the conversation go? Peter Kreeft imagines their discourse as a modern Socratic dialog--a part of The Great Conversation that has been going on for centuries. Does human life have meaning? Is it possible to know about life after death? What if one could prove that Jesus was God? Combining logical argument and literary imagination, Kreeft portrays Lewis as a Christian theist, Kennedy as a modern humanist and Huxley as an Eastern pantheist. Their interaction involves not only good thinking but good drama.

Sounds fascinating and the premise (of course) reminds me of Lewis' own The Screwtape Letters.

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