Category Archives: The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis


I’ve heard people saying "live the present moment" or 活在當下 so many times, yet I still find the idea pretty vague to me. Last time when we went to hear Jean Vanier’s talk, he addressed that too, and I got a slightly better idea of what it means. An example of "living the present moment" is to give 100% attention when you talk to people, when you’re talking to them, focus on that person, listen to what he/she has to say, treat him/her as the only person in this world.
C.S. Lewis (aka one of the best writers I’ve come to know so far) talked about how "future" can be used as a way to tempt us in The Screwtape Letters.
(One of the things that struck me is how I like a song by hocc so much, called 未來. )
Note: When interpreting the quotes from this book, beware of its narrative. It’s a senior devil talking to a novice devil  teaching him how to recruit souls to the Hell.
From the 15th letter from Screwtape to Wormwood
"The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them."
"Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present…. It is far better to make them live in future."
"Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity."
"Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead."
 "To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too–just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present."
"He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him."
(When I read the above paragraph, I relate to it in a programming sense. You can ignore the analogy below
We’re like a daemon process, we receive requests from clients. The server’s job is to gather the required info to fulfill the request. We fill in data into a packet and send it off to the worker thread to do the job. This is how the server keeps itself free for other requests, we don’t WAIT for the worker thread to do its work. We continue with our duty of receiving requests. When the worker thread is done, we’ll be notified. To me "commit the issue to Heaven" is like handing off the packet to the other thread, meanwhile we continue to do our work. This is to live the present moment.)
"But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future–haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth… We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present."
"Your man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real cause of his tranquility, his tranquility will do us good, because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for him when his false hopes are dashed."
"If, on the other hand, he is aware that horrors may be in store for him and is praying for the virtues, wherewith to meet them, and meanwhile concerning himself with the Present because there, and there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell, his state is very undersirable and should be attacked at once."