“The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere.
The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it– all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.
If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.
His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want.
You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old. The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else.
This is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent.
Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry— the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon– are always blowing our whole structure away.
They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or ‘science’ or psychology, or what not.
Real worldliness is a work of time– assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience… Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can,
Your affectionate uncle,
–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 143-145.
I am always drawn to C.S. Lewis….so glad I found him on your blog! Screwtapes was one of my favorite book written by him!