Political Primaries, C.S. Lewis, and Remembering the Sun

Art Remillard

As I drove through my small western Pennsylvania town this morning, the campaign signs reminded me that six weeks of political frenzy have mercifully come to an end. To be sure, the election battles will continue, not only through November but into future elections as well. At times, I find myself hoping for the next election day to come, to put an end to the endless predictions and speculation. But at the same time, I lament this impulse to speed through life and risk overlooking every day's hidden treasures.

So I read with great interest this morning an editorial from New York Times columnist David Brooks. He reminds me that sometimes, as folk singer Pieta Brown said, I just need to “remember the sun.”

Below is an excerpt. If you're a C.S. Lewis fan, you'll appreciate both this and the reference to Michael Ward's essay in Books & Culture.

Over the past 15 months, I’ve been writing pretty regularly about the presidential campaign, which has meant thinking a lot about attack ads, tracking polls and which campaign is renouncing which over-the-line comment from a surrogate that particular day. But on my desk for much of this period I have kept a short essay, which I stare at longingly from time to time. It’s an essay about how people in the Middle Ages viewed the night sky, and it’s about a mentality so totally removed from the campaign mentality that it’s like a refreshing dip in a cool and cleansing pool.

The essay, which appeared in Books & Culture, is called “C. S. Lewis and the Star of Bethlehem,” by Michael Ward, a chaplain at Peterhouse College at Cambridge. It points out that while we moderns see space as a black, cold, mostly empty vastness, with planets and stars propelled by gravitational and other forces, Europeans in the Middle Ages saw a more intimate and magical place...

There’s something about obsessing about a campaign — or probably a legal case or a business deal — that doesn’t exactly arouse the imaginative faculties. Campaigns are all about message management, polls and tactics. The communication is swift, Blackberry-sized and prosaic. As you cover it, you feel yourself enclosed in its tunnel. Entire mental faculties go unused. Ward’s essay has been a constant reminder of that other mental universe.


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