Friday, August 23, 2019

Quickies: “Dangerous Worlds”

     Among my favorite passages in C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, this one is at the top:

     This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy's motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

     The speaker in the above is Screwtape, a devil high (low?) in Satan’s service. I had occasion to revisit that passage today, and it struck me as I contemplated it that it explains the perennial popularity of adventure fiction of all kinds and genres. Contemporary America is remarkably safe. The typical American’s likelihood of incurring real danger in his daily business is very small. And there are institutions and individuals who labor to keep it that way, and to make it even safer if possible.

     Adventure fiction, whether it’s a thriller set in something approximating the real world or an item of fantasy, horror, or science fiction, allows us to “visit” a dangerous realm where, as Lewis says above, moral issues really matter. There’s no disguising right and wrong, nor can one confuse them with one another, when life and limb are on the line, whether it’s the protagonist’s own well-being, that of his loved one(s), or that of an ideal the protagonist has pledged himself to uphold.

     No doubt you’ve seen this before:

Hard times create hard men.
Hard men create good times.
Good times create soft men.
Soft men create hard times.

     We’re somewhere between the late third and the early fourth phases of that cycle today. I think most of us are aware of it. Yet rare is the man, whatever his convictions, who would elect a greater degree of danger for himself or those he loves. He’d much rather enjoy such a realm vicariously, in fiction of his preferred genre.

     Food for thought.


Pascal said...
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Pascal said...

Here's a stinker for you.

The ur-conservative you put the spotlight on yesterday is the softest of men in many ways except one. Treachery. Because he is so powerful among the wider variety of conservatives he both retains sway among them and has the means to turn on the remaining hard when they threaten to his soft life.

So in addition to needing the courage to face off against the enemy in front of them, the heroic have to keep a keen eye on their six due to potential pressures the ur-conservative has at his disposal to extort or blackmail other normally reliable men near the heroes at the front.

Clearly the times are ripe for the renewal of faith outside ourselves. You sir have regularly and gently promoted the idea that we chose to fill that sinisterly created lacuna. You were wise long before many of the rest of us.

Maddog said...

This tracks the ideas in The Fourth Turning!

Quickies: “Dangerous Worlds”

"No doubt you’ve seen this before:

Hard times create hard men.
Hard men create good times.
Good times create soft men.
Soft men create hard times."

Within the framework of The Fourth Turning, this would be restated:

The Existential Crisis generation creates hard men.
Hard men create good times during the Rebuilding generation.
Good times create soft men and trigger the Spiritual Awakening generation.
Soft men create hard times, specifically, the Culture Wars generation, which causes an existential crisis.

The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny

Mark Sherman