A perfect day according to C.S. Lewis

In my last post I reflected on the best way to use my (God-given) time, under the circumstances of my actual life. To some, my approach may have seem self-centered. I then remembered a passage from a book by C.S. Lewis, where he describes his perfect day. I remember it still as it seemed quite ideal to me too. Lewis obviously lived in different times than we do. This goes back a hundred years, as he based his perfect day on the ‘Bookham period’, which was 1914-1916. But still, isn’t is amazing to be able to have a glance back in time, and into someone’s life and thoughts? Read and enjoy this passage from Lewis’ autobiography ‘Surprised by Joy – An Accidental Journey from Atheism to Christianity’.

We now settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought to me about eleven, so much the better. (…) At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world (…). The only friend to walk with is the one (…) who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared. The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude (…). For eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. (…) At five a man should work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing at that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (…) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven (p.141-142).

And in the olden days, there was no such thing as email. But there was written communication. This is what Lewis notes about that:

But when is a man to write his letters? (…) It is an essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock. In those blessed days I received, and answered, only two letters a week; one from my father, which was a matter of duty, and one from Arthur which was the high light of the week, for we poured out to each other on paper all the delight that was intoxicating us both. Letters from my brother, now on active service, were longer and rarer, and so were my replies (p. 142).

And then, Lewis reflects on his own ideal, making a distinction between self-centered and selfish:

Such is my ideal, and such then (almost) was the reality, of “settled, calm, Epicurean life.” It is no doubt for my own good that I have been so generally prevented from leading it, for it is a life almost entirely selfish. Selfish, not self-centered: for in such a life my mind would be directed toward a thousand things, not one of which is myself. The distinction is not unimportant. One of the happiest men and most pleasing companions I have ever known was intensely selfish. On the other hand I have known people capable of real sacrifice whose lives were nevertheless a misery to themselves and to others, because self-concern and self-pity filled all their thoughts. Either condition will destroy the soul in the end. But till the end, give me the man who takes the best of everything (even at my expense) and then talks of other things, rather than the man who serves me and talks of himself, and whose very kindnesses are a continual reproach, a continual demand for pity, gratitude, and admiration (p. 142-143).

cslewisI find this a wonderful reflection. Perhaps it resonates with me so much because it is very likely that C.S. Lewis was a INTJ personality type, just like me – as I recently discovered. I can only hope that I could ever be as creative and insightful as he was. And to ever have a day he dared to describe as ‘normal’!



One comment

  1. Great article! As an INTJ myself this sounds very ideal. If you’re interested I also blog about being an introvert. This is my most recent blog post https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/49731520/posts/1150333794

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