The halls of academia are a curious place. Dark wooden walls and well-worn stairways hearken back to legions of students and professors who have invested portions of their lives in the academies’ life. Some of us are drawn to the air of knowledge and residue of research that made them what they are.
At the same time, however, many universities have become parodies of what they once were. Some self-important leaders and faculty cry out for satire and parody. As one liberal American journalist, a defender of academic elitism, admitted: “academics can be condescending and arrogant.”
Through the years I’ve known many brilliant men and women who retained their humility. Sadly, I’ve also encountered many whose view of themselves was so exaggerated that one could only respond with disbelief. Do they really believe no one sees through the façade?
Rather than write a longer column here, I want to provide a link to an unusual article I recently wrote related to this subject. If you have a sense of humor, and are not afflicted with academic grandiosity, please check it out. It appeared this past week in the latest issue of CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society.
CSL is a small but mighty (think Reepicheep) publication. It’s worth subscribing to, even for those of us thousands of miles from their regular meetings in the Empire State.
My article is brief, but it includes “the Mere Oxford Inkling Erudition Chart,” which promises countless hours of educational entertainment.
The people my satire seeks to unmask are the type of academics who attempted to make Oxford and Cambridge Universities so inhospitable to C.S. Lewis. Read this interview with one of his former student who critiques the opinions of lesser minds.
The BBC [invited him to broadcast the] talks that ultimately became Mere Christianity. The BBC was astounded by the response to these talks. As you know, Mere Christianity has never been out of print since.
He then became very unpopular with the senior faculty at Magdalen College. Magdalen was a godless college and a very famous college, very atheistical. . . . So [Lewis] got a rough ride there. He never made professor at Oxford.
So much for the civility one would expect in such environs.
You can read my modest article, “Mastering Inkling Erudition,” at this link today.
4 thoughts on “When the Learnèd Deserve Gentle Ridicule”
A mischievous ribbing that academia richly deserves! For all your erudition, Rob, you’ve managed to keep your prose Inkling-like, “abandoning all pretense of academic objectivity, a passive-aggressive impulse fed by Wagnerian lyrical affectations recalls the synergistic essence of the question of whether or not the Inklings truly existed.” You know what I mean.
Funny. Thank you for the compliment. I’m adding that description to my new business cards!
I think it was the saintly Dr. Andrew Murray who once commented that water always flows to the lowest place. A lesson in humility.
Humility comes easily to those who have it. To others (myself included, I confess) we sometimes go through the cycle C.S. Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters:
“I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.
“Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble’, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please.
“But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.”