In recent days I have been reading two biographies of C. S. Lewis, both written by close friends of his. His brilliant mind is a sure basis for admiration as is the history of his moving thoughtfully, and in stages, from the mindset (and practice) of an atheist to that of a theist who could not yet believe that Jesus was God, to that of a fully-believing and practicing Christian. Once Mr. Lewis became a believer, he moved steadily forward in his search for truth and became an activist for Christianity, both in the written and spoken word.
The gifts of C. S. Lewis were not wasted. From early childhood he was tutored and otherwise schooled: As an adult he spent the greater part of his years writing and lecturing within university environs. My recent study of this remarkable man’s life has prompted this post, which other than this introduction and the general thought bears not directly on the existence and practices of C. S. Lewis. Rather, my piece bears on that of education–higher education in particular.
I married young, a few days short of 18, having graduated high school when I was 16, and having then spent one year at a Tulsa, OK. Bible school named Apostolic College. It was there I met Jerry, who was six years older than I, and who had received a BA in education before he had gone to Apostolic College for his ministerial training. We fell in love, he proposed to me, and in June of 1956, we were married. Jerry was already a full-time minister, and immediately after our wedding Jerry took on the title Evangelist and we began going from church to church holding revival meetings. A few years later, Jerry assumed his first pastorate, then even later, his second, and in very recent years–well into retirement age–Jerry and I “planted” a church in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. God has blessed us, our marriage has been wonderful despite my raw youth as I took on such vows, and I consider myself to have lived a full, productive life, regretting few of my major decisions.
I have come to consider, though, that one of my life decisions may have been a mistake: I’m feeling regret that I am not better educated. Through the years I have considered this subject, but it was the recent reading of the C. S. Lewis books that anew stirred this idea of my lack in this area. Images of a gowned student knocking at the rooms of C. S. Lewis where the student would be tutored by this master; Tolkien, Lewis and others walking through wooded areas discussing words and lines and ideas; people clustered about a blazing fire on a cold evening in England as they read aloud their new writings–these stir in me a desire for such interaction with quick and learned persons. The idea of such an education in a university setting appeals to me. Consider the following words of biographers Green and Hooper:
If a friend made a thoughtless remark or a loose generality in conversation, Lewis would boom out, “I challenge that!” and the foils of logic would be clashing in a moment–thrust, parry and riposte, his eyes positively sparkling at the skillful play of words until one could almost hear the click and slide of pliant steel upon steel–and indeed the final thrust, given or very occasionally received, would often be accompanied by a joyous ‘Touche!’
Understand that I do not consider myself completely unlearned, nor am I exceedingly ignorant. I have sat for a few college classes, and because I have an inquisitive nature and a craving to learn, through the years I have augmented my shallow formal education so that I believe I can accurately say I have attained a general education in a myriad subjects, thin though such understanding may be. Too, I know that numerous philosophers and other brilliant men have taken such position as did Albert Einstein when he said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
At the very moment I complain of my lack of university experience, I must not neglect to tell the richness of my life that in itself has widely contributed to my learning. Only this morning, after spending the night in our home here in Crestline, our long-time friend Harold Kern and Jerry engaged in a lengthy deep theological discussion, into which later his wife Johanna and I joined. Over a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, orange juice and blueberry bagels, the conversation continued, ever deepening. Finally we pushed back our chairs, carried our dishes to the kitchen, and smiled as we acknowledged we had tackled questions whose answers have likely evaded each human generation since those lightening days when Adam and Eve awoke in Eden.
Even as I acknowledge my rich and blessed life, and despite my living room and my dining room taking on the aura of university this morning, a small part of me tells of loss. I do regret my lack of higher education.