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September 26, 2013

"When I Became a Man I Put Away Childish Things" Just Might Mean the Exact Opposite of What You Think It Does

Yeahhh... I'm leaving this post as a testament to my incompleteness as a person, but if you see a huge error coming up, keep reading. I get around to correcting it eventually:

You've probably said this. You've definitely read it: C.S. Lewis' quotation that, "When I became a man I put away childish things."

Well, some of you might know the quote, because many of you probably know C.S. Lewis a heck of a lot better than I do.

But for those, like me, who are mostly ignorant of him, and who thought all these years that the quote was an urging towards Adult-like Seriousness...

Nope! The exact opposite.

Courtesy of Hal, here's the full quote.

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

Now I suppose I should feel a little embarrassed for being ignorant of this quote. And I guess maybe I do feel a little embarrassed.

But only a little. Because I'm not ignorant anymore. Oh, I was ignorant, a half hour ago. But not now. I've now learned it. So I don't have anything to be ashamed about any longer.

We can all sit back and have a good laugh at my Half Hour Ago Self.

But he's gone now, because he learned something today.

Wow: Well, we're not quite done laughing at my ignorance yet: CS Lewis repurposed the quote from 1 Corinthians, where it means, yes, exactly what I always thought it meant.

CS Lewis then took that meaning and gave it a new spin.

I blame "Hal." Who I'm not as fond of as I was a half hour ago.

And... now! My ignorance on this quote is (I do in fact pray) officially behind me.

...

Incidentally, the idea of this brought up a useful bit of pushback to my earlier attack on "Numminess." I certainly wouldn't want to push the idea that We Must At All Times Be Serious. Obviously I don't believe such a thing; not even close.

To the extent I might have suggested that, I expressly disclaim such a noxious idea. I think the spirit of play (and, in fact, pleasure-seeking) is important and shouldn't be dressed in the hairshirt and paraded in shame.

But not everything is "fun," and not everything should be "fun." The most deeply rewarding things in life are not particularly "fun."

What concerns me is not that there are people who prefer some fun with their politics -- I'm one of them.

What concerns me are people who prefer fun to everything. And to the extent politics is not fun, they reject actual political thought in favor of its "fun" analogues -- sending Silly Viral Animal Pictures to friends and Liking #BoicottBarilla on FaceBook.

Our nation has not become merely incurious, or unintelligent; it has become downright juvenile and stupid.

That's a problem. Not playfulness and not humor. And not fun itself.

But the inability to do things which are not "fun."

Dumb is Easy and Easy is Holy. That's the national motto. We should just put it on our dollar bills.


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posted by Ace at 07:28 PM

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