27 December 2012

What if Death Were Optional?

C. S. Lewis, to Warfield Firor, an American surgeon, 1949:
Have you ever thought what it would be like if (all other things remaining as they are) old age and death had been made optional? All other things remaining: i.e. it would still be true that our real destiny was elsewhere, that we have no abiding city here and no true happiness, but the un-hitching from this life was left to be accomplished by our own will as an act of obedience and faith. I suppose the percentage of di-ers would be about the same as the percentage of Trappists is now.

I am therefore (with some help from the weather and rheumatism!) trying to profit by this new realisation of my mortality. To begin to die, to loosen a few of the tentacles which the octopus-world has fastened on one. But of course it is continuings, not beginnings, that are the point. A good night's sleep, a sunny morning, a success with my next book--any of these will, I know, alter the whole thing. Which alteration, by the bye, being in reality a relapse from partial waking into the old stupor, would nevertheless be regarded by most people as a return to health from a 'morbid' mood!

Well, it's certainly not that. But it is a very partial waking. One ought not to need the gloomy moments of life for beginning detachment, nor be re-entangled by the bright ones. One ought to be able to enjoy the bright ones to the full and at that very same moment have the perfect readiness to leave them, confident that what calls one away is better.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (HarperCollins, 2004), 986-87; emphases original

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