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The Echo of a Tune

After a long writing hiatus, here I am, writing from my new home right downtown Los Angeles.  What a change from Watertown!  More on that later, for tonight I am preoccupied by one of my favorite quotations from another age.  



In Surprised By Joy, CS Lewis talks about the indescribable longings he experienced that played a crucial role in his conversion to Christianity.  He found himself longing for something that had never existed in his past and could not exist in his future, and yet he found himself wanting to travel through time to find it nonetheless.  That sentiment is summed up perfectly in this section of his sermon called "The Weight of Glory":

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

I know I will appreciate the LA sunshine in the winter, but the bright and warm August we have endured makes me long for a cold autumn day in New England.  I have the feeling that I would find something there that I am looking for, but when I am honest about my memories of those days, they, too, were full of business and preoccupation and all the wants and cares of any other day.  And yet, I feel if I could return to New Haven on a bright and brisk October day, or perhaps one of my glorious days on horseback in the woods of Hamilton, MA, the restlessness and happy-sadness would be relieved.  

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