Lewis knew a great many things, could read signs like an Indian but unlike an Indian he did not know what he could not do. He thought he was a good poet but he was not. He thought books could tell him how to live but they couldn’t. He was a serious but dazed reader. He read Dante and Shakespeare and Nietzsche and Freud. He read modern poetry and books on psychiatry. He had taken a degree in English, taught English, fought in a war, returned to teach English, couldn’t, decided to farm, bought a goat farm, managed a Confederate museum in a cave on his property, wrote poetry, went broke, became a golf pro. Lewis showed him some of his poetry once. It was not good. There was one poem called “New Moon over Khe Sanh,” which was typed in the shape of a new moon:
How could Lewis who could locate others so well, so misplace himself? How could he read signs and people so well, yet want to be a third-rate Rupert Brooke with his rendezvous with death at Khe Sanh? Why would he even want to be a first-rate Rupert Brooke? On the other hand, what was Lewis supposed to do? be an Indian scout? goatherd? English teacher? golf pro? run a Confederate cave? Lewis didn’t seem to know. But what was good about him was that he remained himself despite himself. Books had not spoiled him. He knew a great deal he hadn’t learned from books. The trouble was he didn’t set store by it.
If belief is shitty and unbelief is shitty, what does that leave?
No, Lewis was even more demented than the believers. Unbelieving Lewis read Dante for the structure. At least, believers were consistent. They might think Dante is a restaurant in Asheville but they don’t read Marx for structure.
Wasn’t it possible to believe in God like Pascal’s cold-blooded bettor, because there was everything to gain if you were right and nothing to lose if you were wrong?