Selected quotes from “A Grief Observed”

Various Quotes from “A Grief Observed”, by C.S. Lewis.

Introduction (By Douglas Gresham, Lewis’ step-son) —
“Encountering amid her reading of a wide variety of authors the work of the British writer C.S. Lewis, she became aware that beneath the fragile and very human veneer of the organized churches of the world, there lies a truth so real and so pristine that all of man’s concocted philosophical posings tumble into ruin beside it. She became aware also that here was a mind of hitherto unparalleled clarity.”

From the book —
“I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now.”

“Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

“The thing itself is simply all these ups and downs: the rest is a name or an idea.”

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”

“Reality never repeats.”

“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”

“The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away. But what will follow? Just this apathy, this dead flatness?”

“I had been warned – I had warned myself – not to reckon on worldly happiness.”

“If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards.”

“Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously’. Apparently it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it.”

“Nothing less will shake a man – or at any rate a man like me – out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses.”

“If my house was a house of cards, the sooner it was knocked down the better.”

“I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?”

“A sinful woman married a sinful man; two of God’s patients, not yet cured.”

“But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us?”

“I might have said, ‘He’s got over it. He’s forgotten his wife,’ when the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it.'”

“You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.”

“And then one babbles – ‘If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her.’ But one can’t tell how serious that bid is, for nothing is staked on it. If it suddenly became a real possibility, then, for the first time, we should discover how seriously we had meant it. But is it ever allowed?”

“Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them – never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?”

“It doesn’t matter that all the photographs of H. are bad. It doesn’t matter – not much – if my memory of her is imperfect. Images, whether on paper or in the mind, are not important for themselves. Merely links.”

“The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness.”

“Can I meet H. again only if I learn to love you so much that I don’t care whether I meet her or not?”

“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.'”

“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unaswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.”

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