In Memoriam: JFK, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley
When I was a kid, my grandmother used to remind us of the superstition that “bad news always comes in threes.” I wonder if she was recalling November 22, 1963.
Exactly 50 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The event was so cataclysmic, so traumatizing to the nation, that we hardly noticed that on the same day, the world also lost not one, but two of the premier literary lights of the 20th century: C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley.
If the stunning death of JFK hadn’t dominated the news, I suppose the news of the day would have highlighted not only the contributions of Lewis and Huxley, but their radically differing worldviews. Lewis, of course, was and is one of the most eloquent apologists for mere Christianity of the last century. Huxley, on the other hand, was an outspoken atheist, whose Brave New World ranks among the great dystopian novels.
I first learned of the simultaneous passing of these renowned and influential men through a wonderfully brilliant little book by Peter Kreeft called Between Heaven and Hell. In the book, Kreeft, a professor of Philosophy at Boston College and devout Catholic, imagines the three encountering one another after death and debating their various philosophies. [Spoiler Alert] Lewis comes out the winner. It’s a short work of creative apologetics that I highly recommend.
Two other curiosities related to November 22: Margaret Thatcher announced her resignation on this date in 1990 and the famous (interminably long) speech by John Galt was given on November 22 in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
Just added: A “Who Said It” Quiz, included quotes by all three men. Can you identify the man with his words?
Your comments and questions are always warmly welcomed. Please leave them in the Reply section below.
Is is extremely sad Lewis’ death was over-shadowed by JFK’s death. To have had a day or a week of highlighting his contributions to our world would have been wonderful.
As for Huxley, I only quickly read Brave New World one time. I was surprised, that unlike his fellow dystopian author’s he actually had his future broken world full of opulence and sensuality rather than sexual suppression.
I have thought about this in regards to The Giver, 1984, and Atlas Shrugged. I’d love to hear what Ayn would say of our sexually suppressed society. I mean her other predictions are coming to pass economically, but the notion that religion was setting up a world full of non-sexual or emotionally void people and societies is the exact opposite of what has occurred. I’d love to hear if she or Orwell think this is a great thing. Thoughts?
Even with Bradbury’s world of book-burning – it was the idea that religious conservatives would bring such things to pass – but instead our State is one of secularism which is intolerant of religion but promoting the non-thinking emotional and physical tyranny dystopian authors have been saying religion would bring about only instead of suppression we are tyrannized by obsession with emotions and sex but banning religious texts.
Bradbury does elude to people not caring about thinking or reading enough and that is why it came to pass – which is true for us now as well. People don’t care libraries are getting rid of books, going to electronic media and no longer carrying classics. People think less literature and more state statistic reports in Common Core are great choices – or they don’t know if enough or care enough to see a difference. – But did the system instill that apathy?
I wonder how many of JFK’s speeches students are exposed to let alone Lew or Huxley. I enjoyed the quiz. It was interesting to see some of the quotes I would have thought Lewis said that Huxley said. Thanks for the reference to Kreeft. I am going to look for this book.
Interesting thoughts, Cheryl. I’ve always thought Huxley was more prophetically accurate than Orwell. It’s easier to control humans by keeping them entertained and emotionally stimulated than by violence and coercion.
Anything by Kreeft comes highly recommended. His book on Pascal’s Pensees, called Christianity for Modern Pagans is the best book of apologetics I’ve ever read.