This day in history: November 22, 2010

Fourty-seven years ago today, three influential men died: J.F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. The following is an excerpt from a book that chronicles a fictional conversation between the three men immediately following death. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, wrote the book to illustrate their different perspectives: Kennedy – Humanist, Huxley – Pantheist, and Lewis – Theist.

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Kennedy: Where the hell are we?

Lewis: You must be a Catholic!

Kennedy: You could tell by the accent, eh?

Lewis: Yes. I say – aren’t you President Kennedy? How did you get here -wherever here is?

Kennedy: Ex-President, I think: I seem to have been assassinated. Who are you? And – to return to my first question – where the hell are we?

Lewis: I’m C.S. Lewis. I just died too, and Im pretty sure you’re wrong about the location. This place just feels too good to be hell. On the other hand, I didn’t see any God, did you?

Kennedy: No.

Lewis: Then it can’t be heaven either. I wonder whether we’re stuck in limbo.

Kennedy: Ugh! Do you really think so?

Lewis: Actually, I think it more likely that it’s purgatory, especially if we end up getting out of it and into heaven. I did a bit of speculating about such places as a writer, especially in The Great Divorce. I don’t suppose you’ve read it? No . . . well . . . But surely you should be familiar with such concepts if you were a Roman Catholic.

Kennedy: Well . . . I was more of a modern Catholic; I never bothered about transcendental mysteries or mythology. I was too busy trying to take care of the world I lived in for escapist thinking. “One world at a time,” as Thoreau put it.

Lewis: You can see now that you were wrong, can’t you?

Kennedy: What do you mean?

Lewis: Why, first that it isn’t mythology. It’s real. Wherever we are, here we are, large as life. And second, that the rule isn’t “one world at a time.” Here we are in another world talking about our past life on earth. That’s two worlds at a time by my count. And while we were on earth we could think about this world too; that’s also two worlds at a time, isn’t it? Finally, it’s not escapism. In fact, not to have prepared for this journey while we were living on earth would have been escapism. Don’t you agree?

Kennedy: Hmmm . . . I suppose you’re right. But look! Someone else is coming. Can you make out who it is?

Lewis: Why, it’s Huxley! Aldous Huxley. Aldous, welcome. How did you get here?

Huxley: Same way you did, I’m sure. I just died. Oh, I say! Kennedy and Lewis! What good company to die in – or live in, whatever we’re doing. Where is this place, anyway.

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Intriguing, isn’t it? You can read a larger excerpt on google books, or you can go one step further and purchase a copy for yourself from your local bookstore (given they have a copy on the shelf). I promise that you will not be disappointed.