Legacy and Jealousy

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of CS Lewis. No one has shaped my thinking and imagination as deeply and richly as Lewis. I'm grateful for his legacy in my life.

Lewis has sold millions of books and influenced millions of readers. But his death was almost completely overshadowed. On the same day Lewis died, the world shook with the news that the American president had been assassinated. Even today, stories about JFK outstrip remembrances of Lewis.

I wonder if Lewis would have wrestled with jealousy over not being in the limelight.

His book, Til We Have Faces, deals with the ugly face of jealousy. The main character wrestles with jealousy throughout the book, to devastating effect. Lewis captured how jealousy twists the way we tell our own stories and how the hunger for attention consumes us.

Lewis seemed to understand the experience of jealousy. I'd like to imagine that that depth of understanding would give him the ability to overcome any jealousy that would try to attach itself to him.

But, of course, understanding a thing doesn't give you power over it.

Jealousy of all sins is one of the slipperiest to pin down. Just when you think you've put a stop to it, it emerges in a different corner of your life. It goes on vacation but never moves out.

I wonder how Lewis would have dealt with being in the annual shadow of JFK. Or of having his stories overshadowed by Tolkien. Loved, sure, he's loved. But he's often being attached and compared to others. That's part of his legacy.

Maybe I don't wonder as much about Lewis as I wonder about myself. Jealousy is not a vice confined to the famous. Maybe I push Lewis into my place on stage and hope that, in watching him play my part, I'll learn how to perform it the way it was meant to be performed. Lewis is good for that.

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