Book Club: Surprised by Joy

This week I read Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis. In many ways, this would be a book I relished in college because I read to seem smart and educated. Now, I'd rather read for pleasure and insight. I've recently donated a huge number of books precisely because I thought they were books I should have or should read. I'm happy to say, I've given that up. 

A quick disclaimer. I'm not Catholic, so if you really like writing about Catholicism (or love the Chronicles of Narnia), this book might appeal to you. I approached this book with curiosity and love for his experience, because I'm always interested in transitioning from one set of beliefs to another.

Surprised by Joy is C.S. Lewis’s autobiography of his early years, and his conversion from atheism to Christianity. If you are interested in reading the book, you might skip to the last two chapters, as those contain the bulk of his conversion story. The first half of the book feels stuffy, and I really had a hard time connecting to his experiences. 

That said, there was a quote near the end that struck me.

When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, ‘Look!’ The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up.

I think this has really been true to me on my journey. When I was a child, I used to feel intuitive flashes of inspiration every few months. I was often afraid of them. Over time, I let my intuition flow, even if I felt uncomfortable surrendering to something greater than myself. Now, intuitive insight is part of my daily life, and I no longer stop and stare. I feel I've found the road, and I'm grateful for the signposts along the way. 

I might explore other C.S. Lewis writings, but for now, I'll put this book to rest. If you are interested in writings on Catholicism, I’d rather recommend The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day. Her writing greatly inspired me to find spiritual experiences through community, and seemed more catholic (as in universal, all-embracing) in nature. I highly recommend her work. 

Next week, I'll be reading Untie the Strong Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. This is a very different view on Catholicism, and it will be interesting to explore her feminine-centric work after reading Surprised by Joy. In the following weeks, we'll be veering away from religious writing, and taking a look at Opening to Channel by Sanaya Roman, Alchemical Healing  by Nicki Scully, and Meditation for the Love of it by Sally Kempton.