What do we do as human beings in times of crises, war, and uncertainty?
The following seven reflections come from C.S. Lewis’s essay, “Learning in War-Time,” as well as some of my own reflections.
Seven Reasons Why Beauty Matters in Wartime
First, remember, from ancient times till now, humanity has always faced some kind of peril. Lewis’s lens panned out and across world history. He reminded his hearers that there is nothing natural about living; life is fraught with peril. We live in uncertain times, all the time.
There will always be dictators and tyrants warring for power. So, our first response to calamity should be tempered.
Second, don’t get sucked into headline scrolling or news bingeing. The day needs you—and your humanity—to pursue the beautiful. If we get stuck in the endless news cycle and hot takes from social media, we open ourselves up to despair.
Doing the work of the day matters. It keeps us sane. Don’t cancel appointments or celebrations or weekend trips. We can stay up to date on the crisis as well as live our lives with passion and compassion.
Third, by pursuing the beautiful we contribute to advancing the vision of God in our lives, the lives of others & society. God created human beings to not only live on this earth but to thrive. When we pursue the beautiful, we continue the movement of God’s love and intention for humanity.
Fourth, through prayer and living your life, you contribute to present joys. Don’t ransom the value of “now” for the uncertainty of the future. Lewis reminded his listeners that we are not promised tomorrow. Christ instructed us to pray for our daily bread. We should seize the day and be people who seek to spread joy, not stoke the fires of anxiety and fear.
Fifth, our daily noble pursuits make us human. War awakens the preciousness of life and reminds us to live each moment to the glory of God. If we relinquish the moments God gives us right now, we bow to fear and give up the essence of what makes us human.
Sixth, we must not shelve noble virtues because calamity arises. Instead, we must become warriors of the good, emissaries of truth, and beauty makers.
Finally, beauty reaches through catastrophe to work the miracles of salvation and restoration. Beauty is the reaching hand of hope.
A Reminder to Let Peace Rule Our Hearts
I must always remind myself to remain calm and let peace rule in my heart when calamity strikes. It’s not easy to do. But if we don’t cling to the virtues that make us human, we devolve into beasts of worry and fear, which have no place in the Kingdom of God.
Covid made many into news watchers and health commentators. And war can turn us into political doofuses.
But there is an alternative: the mindful Christian.
The Mindful Christian
This approach digs into the task at hand while keeping a wise eye on current events.
Such an approach searches for ways to bring hope and the vision of God into the lives of friends and families.
It searches out ways to ease the suffering of those most affected.
It understands the fleeting nature of life—something the Psalmist reflects on often—and seizes the “now” as glory moments, given to God through sacral living.
Lewis, having fought in a war, reminded readers that the closer one gets to the front lines, the more one remembers all the things about life that make it worth living—and beauty belongs to them all.
Lewis reminds readers that it is in this time of calamity more than ever that we need to pursue the things that make humanity wonder-filled.
And so I offer my prayers to those falling under the war shells of naked aggression, even as I draw closer to my desk and edit another manuscript or plan another painting.
I resolve to fight for humanity through the brazen act of living right now. Why? Because the breath of God stirs in me—holy flames of life that cannot be extinguished. I invite you to join me.