Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All I Want - Part I

From The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis:

My dear Wormword,

The contemptuous way in which you spoke of gluttony as a means of catching souls, in your last letter, shows only your ignorance. One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it in the whole length and breadth of Europe.

This has largely been effected by concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess.

Your patient’s mother, as I learn from the dossier and you might have learned from Glubose is a good example. She would be astonished – one day, I hope, will be – to learn that her whole life is enslaved to this kind of sensuality, which is quite concealed from her by the fact that the quantities involved are small.

But what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern?

Glubose has this woman well in hand.

She is a positive terror to hostesses and servants. She is always turning from what has been offered her with a demure little sigh and a smile, “Oh, please, please...
all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.”

You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly that what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others.

At the very moment of indulging her appetite she believes she is practicing temperance. In a crowded restaurant she gives a little scream at the plate which some overworked waitress has set before her and says: “Oh, that’s far, far too much! Take it away and bring me about a quarter of it!”

The real value of the quiet work Glubose has been doing for years on this woman can be gauged by the way in which her belly now dominates her whole life.

The woman is in what may be called the “All-I-want” state of mind. All she wants is a cup of tea properly made or an egg properly boiled. But she can never find any servant or any friend who can do these simple things “properly” – because her “properly” conceals an insatiable demand for the exact...

1 comment:

ami said...

Screwtape - sometimes a tough read - but so insightful. I understand it was difficult for Lewis to write as well. I'll have to revisit (adding to the pile)