Book reviews

Surprised by Joy

That was a hard biography to read, Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis, many painful times in his life are described. I can see why some say that, if you want to know Lewis’ trajectory, where he is coming from and how he evolved in his thinking, this book and Pilgrims Regress are the best. The others are more focused on his philosophy, whether straight through his non fiction, or weaved into fiction. But these two books tell you how it all happened. As usual with a thinker of this caliber, some moments in the book I was not sure I was grasping his thought in its entirety, but at others, I knew exactly what he was relating, I was there too at one time. Many times I was exhilarated to hear him put in words that which I have experienced and I could not have said that eloquently, with that clarity.

I closed the book with a tender smile. I am glad all the pain and difficulties in his life were not what triumphed, and that he was able to find homeliness, friendship, integrity, beauty, and JOY.

I have also read a thin but penetrating, -as it says in the cover-, book by Francis A. Shaeffer, entitled Escape from Reason. I highly recommend it. I studied philosophy for five years, and I just realized I read no originals, and I left with no idea of the main frame of thought from the ancients to our days. I believe it is quite useless to study philosophy when you are that young, specially in colleges where they just give you a book text synopsis of what such and such philosopher proposed, and call it a day. Shaeffer manages, in mere 94 pages, to give a deep overview to art, thought, and worldview starting with the early thinkers, up to our day and time. Disconnected names I had heard of and studied in my youth, came together in this book. Now I finally understand modern art, modern thought, past art, past thought.

The most important learning from the book, to me, was the difference between rationalism and rationality. Christianity is not exhausted nor limited by our reason -it is not a rationalist philosophy that has died with the death of modern man who had faith in Reason-. What do we have after this? Post modern thought, that does not believe in reason anymore, everything is absurd, nothing has meaning, we cannot rely on our reason anymore, we cannot be sure of anything, God is dead, life is meaningless… Not so fast! lol. Christianity still survives, still stays strong today, as it did in the first century. The Bible stands on Itself, and we can give an explanation of our hope, there is rationality in our beliefs. We may be incomplete, but we are made into His image, God created the world, and us, we do not need to alienate ourselves from Him or His Creation, we are not lost in an absurd and meaningless world.


 …the view of modern man: ‘Man enters the water and causes no ripple.’ The Bible says he causes ripples that never end. As a sinner, man cannot be selective in his significance, so he leaves behind bad as well as good marks in history, but certainly he is not a zero.
Christianity is a system which is composed of a set of ideas which can be discussed. By ‘system’ we do not mean a scholastic abstraction, nevertheless we do not shrink from using this word. The Bible does not set out unrelated thoughts. The system it sets forth has a beginning and moves from that beginning in a non contradictory way. The beginning is the existence of the infinite-personal God as Creator of all else. Christianity is not just a vague set of incommunicable experiences, based on a totally unverifiable ‘leap in the dark’. Neither conversion (the beginning of the Christian life) nor spirituality (the growth) should be such a leap. Both are firmly related to the God who is there and the knowledge He has given us –and both involve the whole man. (Pg. 90)

Finally, I am totally enraptured in the story of Odysseus or Ulises, in the Odyssey. I am savoring every word in Samuel Butler’s translation. His prose is very poetic, and very approachable. I will not say this is the only good translation, or the one YOU must read, I’d only say that, when it comes to Homer, it pays back to research your options, for translations bring different things to the plate, and you may want to see what they offer before you choose. Pope, Fagles, Butler, Lattimore, and Fitzgerald, most you can explore online for free before you commit to one or the other. I may come back to this later and write about what I have learned these translations offer, and give you clues as to how you can find out which could be the best for you.


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