As personal and private life is lower than participation in the body of Christ, so the collective life is lower than the personal and private life and has no value save in its service. The secular community, since it exists for our natural good and not for our supernatural, has no higher end than to facilitate and safeguard the family and friendship and solitude. To be happy at home, said [Samuel] Johnson, is the end of all human endeavor. As long as we are thinking only of natural values, we must say that the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal or two friends talking over a pint of beer or a man alone reading a book that interests him, and that all economics, politics, laws, armies, and institutions, save in so far as they prolong and multiply such scenes, are a mere [plowing] the sand and sowing the ocean, a meaningless vanity and vexation of spirit. Collective activities are, of course, necessary. But this is the end to which they are necessary. Great sacrifices of this private happiness by those who have it may be necessary in order that it may be more widely distributed. All may have to be a little hungry in order that none may starve. But do not let us mistake necessary evils for good. The mistake is easily made. Fruit has to be tinned if it is to be transported and has to lose, thereby, some of its good qualities. But one meets people who have learned actually to prefer the tinned fruit to the fresh. A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion: to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for the one as for the other. But, if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind – if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else – then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become, itself, a new and deadly disease. – C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), from “Membership” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1949)
From: The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1984), p. 208-209. Entry for August 16.