At the start of last week, I updated my facebook status to say ‘…a weekend with C.S. Lewis and Friends’. Now, again, as I title my blog ‘A weekend with C.S. Lewis and Friends’, I realize that over the course of last weekend, my understanding of the meaning of the word ‘friend’ has grown deeper. The profound experiences of life are the ones that help us understand the deeper meaning of words which we often blithely use. For example, a guy will not really understand the meaning of ‘falling’ in love unless he has ‘fallen’ in love with a girl. It is when a loved one dies that one gets to understand the meaning of the word ‘death’. Over the course of the weekend at Camp Allen with the singles Fusion Fellowship of SJD, Andrew Lazo’s special emphasis on friendship during his exposition of C.S. Lewis’ “Four Loves” was, I think, one such experience that helped me have a renewed and a deeper understanding of the word ‘Friendship’. In fact, today, when I was typing an email to one of my ‘friends’, I stopped for a moment to ask myself if my email was an ‘ordinate’ response to the ‘friendship’ we shared.
Having been inspired to think about love over the course of this week, I realize that the love that really intrigues me is 'Need Love'. Need love is the love that people have because the love satisfies a need of theirs. When Shakesphere said 'love loves love', I think he was essentially talking about need love. It is a love where love just 'needs' the feeling of love. This love does not necessarily, selflessly, seek a person to love. Some men idealize this kind of need love, some demonize it. But I think that a man who neither idealized nor demonizes but understands need love for what it is, will be a good lover.
Without this need love, a man and a woman may never risk passionately falling in love with each other. The ‘first love’ (which is 7 parts need love, 2 parts gift love, 1 part appreciative love) is that spark that causes a man and a woman to fall in love. But this ‘need’ soaked ‘first love’ which causes the couple to fall in love, dies soon. Then out of the ashes of this ‘love death’, resurrects Agape (selfless love). Need love is the ‘severe mercy’ of God that helps man attain higher forms of selfless love. As Lewis often says, 'the higher does not stand without the lower'. No love reaches its noble selfless supremacy which has not started off as a need love in some form.
Even as man approaches God, it is need love that propels him to God. If a man were to think that his love for God is not propelled by his need for God but by of his supreme selfless love for God, he is probably deceiving himself as the Pharisee was deceiving himself at the altar. Whereas, the tax collector confesses his 'need’ for God’s mercy and was loved by God. Though need love is good to a certain extent, need love lasts only as long as the need lasts, so it is not supremely good. But still, God does allow us to start off with need love, then He uses the tricks of nature (the delicate balance of providing contentment and discontentment) to nudge us away from need love towards the Agape love. Thus work’s God’s severe mercy. The fallen man, to attempt to imitate Agape, has to go through the humility of a helpless, and may be even hopeless, ‘need love’. Any man who tries to idealize need love or demonize it, is bound to remain an inane lover all his life.
On a different note, I realize that there was something about the weekend at Camp Allen which rejuvenated my creative energies. I got to write loads for my journal, which was not surprising. But what really surprised me was that, the sporadic, reluctant and mediocre poet that I am, I managed to pen two poems over the weekend. Looking back, I wonder what it was about the Camp Allen retreat that fostered creativity.
I think the answer is that in Camp Allen, one gets to enjoy the natural ‘real pleasures of life’. There was no television neither did I get to browse the virtual world. I did not write in anyone’s walls either. I lived with real people in the real world. I looked at the grey skies, walked the brown earth, breathed into the cold wet air, felt the chilling drizzle, touched the grazing horses, watched the embers in the camp fire die down into the midnight listening to Andrew’s narrations of C.S. Lewis writings, after midnight wandered about the misty nights, fellowshipped with those who loved the Lord and above all, worshiped God.
I think all of these experiences fall under the category of what C.S. Lewis calls, the ‘real pleasures’ of life. In ‘Screw Tape Letters’, the (Devil) uncle instructs Wormwood (the trainee devil) to keep his target, the Christian man, busy with the frivolous pleasures of life, away from the heavier ‘real pleasures’. He says that this nudging of the Christian man away, from the ‘real pleasures’ of life would keep the Christian away from that which is 'real' in life and consequently away from the ‘real’ God as well. Looking back, I am not surprised that the dose of the natural ‘real pleasures’ of life revived in me a fecundity, the source of which is the 'real' God.
Before I started off for the retreat, a Hindu colleague asked me what the seminar on the book was about. I had read “Four Loves” earlier, I remembered some philosophic ideas from the book and explained to him what the book was about, but it made little existential sense to him. My words were perhaps a little too removed from the reality of how stuff happens in life. But during the seminar, Andrew Lazo’s real life ‘blood-letting’ changed that. Nothing speaks louder than a man speaking from the depth of his pain. I think I got an existential understanding of the meaning of the words ‘Storge’, ‘Philia’, ‘Eros’ and ‘Agape’. Perhaps, next time when I have to talk to someone about "Four Loves", I shall hopefully do C.S. Lewis proud.