Archives For Recognition

True Friendship

July 7, 2015 — 9 Comments

charles williamsIt seems odd to describe someone you deeply respect with the words “ugly as a chimpanzee,” but that’s precisely what C.S. Lewis once did.

Yet, reading the description in full, we find that Lewis considered the physical unattractiveness of his mentor to be a positive thing. In a sense, it accented his impressive persona.

Describing Charles Williams to his childhood friend, Arthur Greeves, Lewis wrote:

As for the man: he is about 52, of humble origin (there are still traces of cockney in his voice), ugly as a chimpanzee but so radiant (he emanates more love than any man I have ever known) that as soon as he begins talking whether in private or in a lecture he is transfigured and looks like an angel. He sweeps some people quite off their feet and has many disciples. Women find him so attractive that if he were a bad man he could do what he liked either as a Don Juan or a charlatan.

I find this description evocative of the words about Jesus’ physical appearance. You can read the full passage about Jesus, the promised Messiah, here.

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

Lewis continues with his description of Williams, revealing a more intimate relationship than the previous words might suggest. Williams, you see, was one of the Inklings.

He works in the Oxford University Press. In spite of his “angelic” quality he is also quite an earthy person and when Warnie, Tolkien, he and I meet for our pint in a pub in Broad Street, the fun is often so fast and furious that the company probably thinks we’re talking bawdy when in fact we’re very likely talking Theology. He is married and, I think, youthfully in love with his wife still.

I find it amazing how vivid Lewis’ portrait of his colleague is. He briefly passes over his physical appearance (the least important of human traits, despite what the modern era intimates). And, even though his words are not flattering, the rest of the description reveals they are expressed with deep affection.

Lewis then quickly presses on to a poetic depiction of Williams’ oratorical skills, and concludes with a personable picture of the man among brothers. The final sentence, given Lewis’ perception that he himself would remain a lifelong bachelor, is quite perceptive.

Mutual respect—especially when tempered with affection—generates bonds that allow for honest assessments of both weaknesses and strengths.

A Personal Experience

I recall receiving a lovely engraved glass plaque as a memento of my tour at the United States Air Force Chaplain School. Most of my duties related to writing, but it was common knowledge that there were few subjects on which I did not have something to say.

When the Commandant of the Institute read the inscription during the presentation (it was the first time he had seen it), he paused in embarrassed silence thinking he must have read it wrong. It didn’t sound like the flattery that traditionally adorns such tokens.

“He says in a book what others say in a sentence.”

You can only offer such a dialectical “compliment” to a friend.

It was true, of course, and it was to much laughter that I immediately responded, “True, and it is a book well worth reading.”

When I read this description of the literary friend who made such a profound impression on Lewis, it makes me smile. It is all the more poignant, since it was written just a year before Williams’ death.

There are far, far worse things a person can experience than having someone who respects and loves them say they resemble a chimpanzee . . . or that they tend to be just a little bit verbose.

Writing Awards

April 21, 2012 — 8 Comments

It’s good to be appreciated. For a lesson I’m teaching later this week I’ll be using a profound song entitled “Legacy,” which was written and recorded by Nichole Nordeman. I’ll place a link for it at the end of the blog. (Wouldn’t want you to get distracted and not return to this page!)

Nordeman’s anointed words remind us to treasure what is truly important, and to consciously ponder the legacy we desire to leave when we’ve breathed our last. She acknowledges that it’s nice to receive praise, but suggests there is so much more to life. What follows is only a portion of her inspiring ballad.

I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me

And I enjoy an accolade like the rest

You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery

Of all who’s who and so-n-so’s that used to be the best

At such’n’such . . . it wouldn’t matter much

I won’t lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights

We all need an ‘’Atta boy’ or ‘’Atta girl’

But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides

The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough

To make a mark on things?

I want to leave an offering

A child of mercy and grace

   who
 blessed your name unapologetically

And leave that kind of legacy

It’s in this context that I mention I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. It’s nice that someone wanted to pat me on the back this way, and I like the title of the award, so I decided to accept it. I guess the confirmation of your acceptance (and the actual awarding of the accolade) happens automatically (but presumably not supernaturally) when you post seven points that illustrate your personal versatility. I’ll do that, momentarily.

The gifted C.S. Lewis was noted for his own versatility. Few other people have excelled in such diverse literary fields. Very few. Lewis was a brilliant author of fiction and nonfiction. He was a preeminent literary historian and critic. Much of his poetry was inspiring, although it never attained the measure he desired for it. He is also one of the most highly regarded Christian apologists of the twentieth century. He had few literary equals. Very few.

While Lewis was the recipient of various awards, and accepted them gracefully, he remained quite modest. (One of his most noteworthy honors came in the Carnegie Award, the United Kingdom’s highest honour for children’s literature.) The desire for accolades didn’t sway Lewis from his course.

Likewise, I’ll remain on my course, and not pursue awards or praise. That said, I am pleased to see so many people enjoying this modest blog. (Thank you all!)

Seven quick things about me:

1. I was Thespian of the Year my senior year in high school.

2. While stationed in the Republic of Korea during the 1988 Olympics I watched the United States fall before the Soviet Union in soccer.

3. Although I never played a musical instrument in high school, I joined the University of Washington Husky Marching Band while in college.

4. First car was a 1961 MGA sports car. I’m not quite as old as that sounds; it was already a classic when I got it. (Sure wish I still had it today.)

5. I wrote a Master’s Thesis on the Odes of Solomon, the first Christian hymnal.

6. I once served on a Christian conference committee with Jim Otto, the greatest center ever to play in the NFL.

7. Speaking of awards, in addition to Air Force and Joint medals, during my military career I also received medals from the United States Army and the United States Navy.

P.S. – I promised a link to a Nichole Nordeman’s ballad “Legacy.” Here it is: Legacy by Nichole Nordeman.