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Atypical Despair

Written by David Steltz

Posted on June 13th, 2012

Last Edited on June 28th, 2017

Tags: CS Lewis

I do not read enough to recognize authors simply by their writing style, but the subject matter in A Grief Observed is certainly uncharacteristic of Lewis. His writings tend to be objective, logical paths of discussion of truth on matters such as morality, nature, and goodness. A Grief Observed is instead an outpouring of personal emotion and feeling, deeply and passionately dark and heavy in nature.

On the other hand, it is evident that he was able to view his situation from a somewhat objective standpoint, and was aware of every subjective, internal experience. Of such experiences it seems he used his writing to logically assess and analyze.

I most certainly am not disappointed that it was Lewis who wrote the book. It is actually in some ways encouraging. I say that because Lewis is such an exemplary Christian and intellectual figure, and to some an almost unapproachable role model. However, this writing shows that even he experienced the darkest, most common emotions and personal state of proverbial “lowness.” I also find it respectable that he was able to open such a raw unveiling of his heart and innermost thoughts and emotion to the world, for the sole purpose that it may be of some help to someone else. It attests to a certain selflessness and humility, and care for others, while he would have every reason to fall into conceit.

I thought it very interesting that Lewis mentioned how he realized the truth that “it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination.” He had thought extensively about issues concerning pain and suffering, having previously written The Problem of Pain. He had definite convictions and very levelheaded, logically sound conclusions that probably seemed altogether reasonable and acceptable to him as he wrote them. He says he even warned himself against expectations of worldly satisfaction and happiness.

Despite all of that, he was clearly very disturbed and shaken by the grievous event of Helen’s death. He maintained a strain of logical objectivity that was able to observe his own instability, but underneath that he was evidently rendered quite unstable by the emotional impact the event had on his well being. However, in the end, it seems that he ultimately ended up with all the more reassurance for his convictions, while possessing on a deeper level a certain empathetic grasp on the reality of grief and pain.

The insight and perspective that follows once he healed emotionally could be seen in a sense as growth or maturity in his life, both mentally and spiritually. That positive result may, as it seems to me, be able to be attributed to that particular strain of objective logic that he maintained through his grief. Being able to think of one’s situation from an observational standpoint is, I believe, very conducive to emerging with a desirable outcome.

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Atypical Despair