Thursday, January 8, 2009

Meditation on a Toolshed

In his Meditation in a Toolshed, C.S. Lewis uses the juxtaposition of a beam of light against the darkness to strengthen his point that both experience and observation are dependent on each other when seeking knowledge.  He discusses two ways to consider facts; by looking along the beam of light, and the other by looking at it. 

            Lewis discusses the danger of delving too deeply into the modern mindset where we avoid potential bias and consequently purely observe the event by looking at it.  He raises a valid point on the discussion of pain where a man would not know what pain was by looking at it if he had never experienced or “looked along” it.  Lewis also argues, however, that by only looking along something we can be mislead.  A prime example of this would be romance, where a man can think the woman he is in love with to be wonderful while she really is dull, plain, and stupid. Lewis thus concludes that a person must “deny at the very outset that looking at is, by it’s own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along.”

            Lewis considers the different ways to look at the truth and although he states “One must look both along and at everything” to determine the truth he does not in any way imply relativism.  On the contrary, his depiction of light coming through the crack in the tool shed leads toward a higher power, the sun, which as a symbol of the Son of God is the “way, truth and life.”  Lewis simply declares that one must be ready to experience the absolute truth by being a part of the event and also to observe the same event by looking at it.  In this way the truth can be determined.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Paul,

    You summarized the essay very well. You may love to read this other comment Lewis made as well:

    It’s a good rule after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to three new ones....
    Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and especially liable to make
    certain mistakes. We all therefore need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own
    period.... None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our
    guard against it, if we read only modern books....The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds and this can only be done by reading old books.
    YOu can find the whole text at