Monday, April 03, 2006

Women and Men in Purgatory

Since I completed my little study of orthotomeo, or how to retranslate 'rightly dividing the word of truth' in 2 Tim. 2:15, I paused to notice that no one challenged my mentioning Paul as the author of 2 Timothy. Most (?) scholars label this as one of the Pastoral Epistles, and not written by Paul.

One of the reasons mentioned are the absence of a key Pauline concept like the indwelling spirit, and the stress on good works. (There are other textual reasons which may or may not be more valid.) However, I was amused at the similarity in these arguments to two statements I read about C. S. Lewis.

I have just finished rereading Letters to an American Lady by C. S. Lewis and I want to quote from this book with impunity. So I first scanned a few articles and came across these statements. First this,
    Lewis preferred the company of men. He considered that women's minds were intrinsically inferior to men's.

And then this more generous view.

    Was C.S. Lewis a misogynist? The answer depends on which point in his life you choose to examine. Until fairly late in life, Lewis' view of gender relations was more influenced by his attraction to classical Greek philosophy, pagan myth and Jungian psychology than by 'mere' Christianity. However, with his late acquaintance and marriage to the gifted American writer Joy Davidman, this began to change, as can be seen in his last (but least-read) works, The Discarded Image, Till We Have Faces, and A Grief Observed. Van Leeuwen
So his later works would not reflect the same attitudes as the earlier. Two possibly very different views from the same person at two different times in their life.

Here is a private letter containing one of C.S. Lewis' terrible/wonderful fantasies of women and men in purgatory. You be the judge. I simply find this funny. I am quoting the entire letter to show three recurring themes of his later years. His grief for his wife, his ability to be endessly amused by cats, and his willingness to entertain others with mundane nonsense.
    Dear Mary,

    Yes, it is strange that anyone should dislike cats. But cats themselves are the worst offenders in this respect. They very seldom seem to like one another.

    I have a notion that, apart from actual pain, men and women are quite diversely afflicted by illness. To a woman one of the great evils about it is that she can't do things. To a man (or anyway a man like me) the great consolation is the reflection "Well, anyway, no one can now demand that I should do anything". I have often had the fancy that one stage in Purgatory might be a great big kitchen in which things are always going wrong - milk boiling over, crockery getting smashed, toast burning, animals stealing. The women have to learn to sit still and mind their own business; the men have to learn to jump up and do something about it. When both sexes have mastered this exercise, they go on to the next ....

    I think I continue to improve physically. As I get better I feel the loss of Joy more. I suppose the capacity for happiness must re-awake before one becomes fully aware of its absence.

    Yes, one gets sick of pills. But thank God we don't live in an age of horrible medicines such as our grandparents had to swallow.

    All blessings,


    Jack (Letters to an American Lady)
You get the drift. It doesn't really matter whether this is about men and women, or simply two stereotypically different personality types. I can see the pot boiling over and the cat stealing chicken from the spit. One has to be cooking over an open fireplace for purgatory - surely. What would a painting of this look like?

This correspondance of C. S. Lewis' with an American woman he never met continued over the last 13 years of his life, spanning his marriage, widowhood and final illness, and is a splendid example of the lost art of letter writing.

I have been enjoying the reflections on visits to the dentist, accepting life in a seniors' home, getting the most out of time spent with a loved one you know is dying, and many other important topics that too little is written about.

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