Thursday, September 29 | 9:30-10:45 am

OPENERS | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)

G.K. Chesterton’s Defence of Leisure
Matthew Steem

G.K. Chesterton once asserted, “the best reason for a revival of philosophy is that unless a man has a philosophy certain horrible things will happen to him. He will be practical; he will be progressive; he will cultivate efficiency.” For Chesterton, who had a moderate background in classical philosophy, leisure is a requirement for both the good life and a remedy for the aforementioned “horrible things.” Yet leisure must also be constantly protected from utilitarianism and efficiency. Such oppositionary forces to leisure are dangerous, not because they do not have a certain role in assisting the realization of the good life – which includes more leisure – but because they can be erroneously employed as ends in and of themselves. Chesterton argues that such bland materialistic motivations are commonly accepted precisely because philosophy (we might even say a “Christianly educated philosophy”) has been ignored. And, while his value of leisure was certainly comprised of the classical understanding of leisure’s primary purpose – i.e. contemplation – it was more replete than that alone. Leisure enabled a person to participate fully in the act of being. Ultimately then, exercising proper leisure assists in fostering wonder and surprise: two virtues which, for Chesterton, are quite central to living a meaningful life.

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Matthew Steem is passionate about exploring the intellectual, imaginative and emotional vibrancy at the heart of the Christian tradition: a tradition all too frequently perceived, from both inside and out, as drab and bereft of true joy. A graduate of TWU (MAIH), Matthew is a regular writer for Off the Page (a ministry of Our Daily Bread) and Relief Journal: Art and Faith Unbound. His essays can also be found in White Gulls & Wild Birds: Essays on C.S. Lewis Inklings and Friends & Thomas Merton (ed. Ron Dart, St. Macrina Press), Converge Magazine, Clarion Journal, and Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics.

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The Beatific Vision and the Reenchantment of Nature in Lewis’s Till We Have Faces
Katharine Bubel

Lynn White Jr.’s often-cited “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” (1967) famously implicates Christianity in the environmental crisis, calling it “the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.” White asserts that, as such, it dispelled the animistic religion of the “genius loci,” thereby leaving earth unprotected by “the old inhibitions” and vulnerable to unlimited “exploitation” by technological modern humans. In view of the historical phenomenon (or modern myth) of the disenchantment of nature that White exemplifies, I will undertake an analysis of Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

My reading will complicate White’s assertions concerning Christianity’s “anthropocentricism,” for Lewis’s symbolical re-narration of Apuleius’s telling of the Psyche and Cupid myth depicts a decidedly theocentric and, thereby, sacralizing vision of the participation of created nature in the “Divine Nature.” Bringing The Four Loves to bear on my interpretation, I take the retold myth to be a figuration of human sanctification through the right ordering of love that has implications for the whole creation.

My analysis will focus on the characters of Orual and Psyche as symbolic exemplars of created nature, human and non-human entwined. I will trace their parallel connections with the Earth Mother (Magna Mater) instantiated in Glome’s genius loci goddess, Ungit. Through Ungit, as I will highlight, Lewis significantly paints a more complex picture of archaic nature religion than White’s. I will show how this nature religion is implicated in the parallel relations of Orual and Psyche with the god of the Mountain (Cupid) and their journeys toward the Beatific Vision. For each, this entails a kind of death that she may be re-made, and it is this process of reorientation, I argue, that conveys Lewis’s Christian model of nature reenchanted.

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Katharine Bubel is completing her PhD in English at the University of Victoria. Her dissertation investigates representations of sacred nature in the work of five poets of the North American west coast: Robinson Jeffers, Theodore Roethke, Robert Hass, Denise Levertov, and Jan Zwicky. She especially attends to the relations between poetry, place and spiritual practices, including aesthetics of relinquishment and affirmation. She is a part-time instructor at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. and her various publications include articles with RenascenceThe Merton Annual, and North Wind.

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