On Living in an Atomic Age

Facebook Memories reminded me yesterday that two years ago, I posted this quotation from C.S. Lewis’s essay, “On Living in an Atomic Age”:

It is our business to live by our own law, not by hers [the law of Nature]: to follow, in private or in public life, the law of love and temperance even when they seem to be suicidal, and not the law of competition and grab, even when they seem to be necessary to our survival. For it is part of our spiritual law never to put survival first: not even the survival of our species. We must resolutely train ourselves to feel that survival of our species is not worth having unless it can be had by honourable and merciful means.

Written to his fellow Englishmen during the beginnings of the Cold War, this essay also begins with this excellent and hilarious exhortation:

The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, then let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.

Autumn 2016 is atomic in a number of metaphorical ways: most notably politically and culturally, as we face down the Clinton-Trump election.

But it’s also personally atomic. It is October, and as I face down the first batch of Composition grading (coming in on Tuesday!) and tie up the final project for an online course of my own, I am realizing how way, way overcommitted I am this semester.

And so I find Lewis’s remarks to those who feel as though they live on the brink of destruction a good reminder.

I share them here as a kind of blessing, to you and me as we live through our own mini atomic age. May we all, no matter how insane the world around us, live sensible, human, and merciful lives.


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