CS Lewis has something here…

CS Lewis has something here…

Shortly after the end of WWII, and the use of the atomic bomb to decidedly bring the war in the Pacific to a close; noted Christian author and scholar, CS Lewis, was asked what he thought about living in “an atomic age” when it was widely assumed that the super powers of the world had the capacity to obliterate life on earth as we know it with the push of a few buttons. His response was striking and deeply faithful. Read today in the light of the fear and uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is uniquely reassuring. I’ll simply quote it in part:

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: Why, as you would have lived in the 16th century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land & cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, you & all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: & quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.

We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering & drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful & premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances…in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made; & the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible & human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint & a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

C.S. Lewis — “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

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