Sunday, January 24, 2016


I have mentioned more than once that the ability to laugh at oneself may be one of the best signs of a healthy personality.  CS Lewis did me one better, which I noticed years ago, but forgot.

There was a movie decades ago* - perhaps it was "Oh God" - that was quite direct in its making fun of praising God.  The idea was that it would be boring in heaven to keep harping around for centuries saying "You're great.  You're wonderful.  We praise you, we praise you."

It was  a different movie.  Can't remember which.

It does sound that way from the outside, doesn't it?  In fact, the more depressed you are, the more artificial and stupid the idea of praising, praising, praising sounds. Childish?  Primitive? Hypnotised?  Something unthinking, anyway.  CS Lewis addresses the whole idea in Chapter IX of Reflections On The Psalms, and he starts by acknowledging that it looked quite as stupid and pointless to him when he started reading the Bible in earnest. That's one of the nice things about skeptics and doubters in the pews - they aren't afraid of mentioning such things.  There is a difference, of course, between those who note it as a puzzle and possible obstacle to believing and those who just want to pee on the floor and be insulting.  The former are necessary in every church, the latter must be "handled" so that they do not strangle the lambs, as their motive is destruction.

For the whole chapter, I think you must get the book.  But a considerable section is here. I extract what I think is the center...
I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise — lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game — praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation...

Distilling further, I think the quote "praise almost seems to be inner health made audible" is the improvement on my own theory of being able to laugh at oneself.  The two are related, the Psalmist's in the positive and more spiritual, mine in the negative and more worldly. We quite naturally in the flesh regard ourselves as the most important thing going.  Yet God lifts us out of that to see reality as it is.  When we see it, we shall praise. Being able to take ourselves less seriously is just a stop along the way on that journey.

 *If I am quoting from a movie it is very likely decades ago.


wagman said...

You are probably thinking of the movie Bedazzled (1967). Script excerpt from Wikiquote:

[George climbs up on a London postbox.]
George Spiggott: I'm God. This is my throne, see? All around me are the cherubim, seraphim, continually crying 'Holy, holy, holy'. the angels, archangels, that sort of thing. Now you be me, Lucifer, the loveliet angel of them all.
Stanley Moon: What do I do?
George Spiggott: Well, sort of dance around praising me, mainly...
Stanley Moon: What sort of things do I say?
George Spiggott: Anything that comes into your head that's nice - how beautiful I am, how wise I am, how handsome...that sort of thing. Come on, start dancing.
Stanley Moon: You're wise!, You're beautiful! You're handsome!
George Spiggott: Thank you very much.
Stanley Moon: The universe! What a wonderful idea - take my hat off to you!
George Spiggott: Thank you.
Stanley Moon: Trees - terrific! Water - another good one!
George Spiggott: That was a good one...
Stanley Moon: Yes! Sex - top marks!
George Spiggott: Now make it more personal... a bit more fulsome please. Come on.
Stanley Moon: Immortal... invisible... you're handsome... you're glorious... you're the most beautiful person in the WORLD!
[Stanley performs a headstand, removes his hat and wipes his brow.]
Stanley Moon: Here, I'm getting a bit bored with this. Can't we change places?
George Spiggott: That's exactly how I felt.

Earl Wajenberg said...

"Now you be me, Lucifer, the loveliet angel of them all."

Yes, note that "George Spiggott" is Lucifer.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That's the bit. I don't recall going to see the movie, so it must have been on someone's television years later.

jaed said...

I can't help wondering briefly whether George would have found it quite as boring if people had been dancing around him and calling him "the loveliest angel of them all"....

Texan99 said...

Funny, too, that no one thinks it's silly to praise a beautiful day, flower, view, etc., or worries about whether the object of admiration will get bored or self-conscious. Anyway, it's only false praise, sucking up, that should elicit such a reaction. Praise of the genuinely praiseworthy just means the witnesses have their heads on straight and can stop thinking of themselves for a moment.