From 1941 to 1944 while bombs dropped over England and across Europe during the second World War, CS Lewis, then in his early 40s, would ride the train to the BBC studio in London and offer his reflections on faith and hope for millions of listeners. His lectures were later turned into the classic, “Mere Christianity” and went on to comfort and encourage generations through many dark times.
The war ended after the first atomic bombs were dropped over Japan, and a new age of fear gripped the world as people wondered what could be unleashed if atomic bombs would be dropped again in another conflict. So, in 1948, CS Lewis offered an essay, “On Living in An Atomic Age.” Nearly 75 years later his words carry a certain wisdom we may need to hear again today. His writing is sharp and blunt, but offers tremendously clear insight about how we might live in the face of fear.
Here is what CS Lewis shared,
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’ In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.
Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, 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. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
What an odd and wonderful way of looking at fearful things. May dangers, if they come, find us doing good things with and for each other.
Here in our own city, I hope we are found growing gardens, caring for our neighbours, going for walks, starting businesses, gathering to celebrate, mourn, or worship. I hope mothers with young babies have a community of friends, and seniors have a place to gather for coffee. I hope we are found speaking well of each other behind their backs, and spreading words of hope, courage, and peace. I hope when bad things happen that they will find us fixing each other’s broken things, baking each other bread, and renewing love in our homes.
It is our humanity and the grace and mercy we extend to each other that makes our world worth caring for. So may we be found making Chestermere the city we hope for, no matter what danger comes.