“The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. His sin is the less. But the time comes when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He’d fight to death to keep it. He’d like well to be able to scratch: but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not.”
-C. S. Lewis The Great Divorce
I love to read. I really truly do. I love beginning a new book, I love the feeling of being lost in a book. I love the contentedness I feel at the end of a good book when all is right with the world. I love reading.
Historically reading has been an escape for me. If I’m bored with my life I can read an adventure and all of a sudden life isn’t boring any more. If I’m discontented with my life I can read a book about someone who has a life I would rather have and for the time that I’m trapped in those pages I’m a different person. I can escape the misery of my own life and trade it for fiction.
The problem with this type of reading is that once the book is over I always find myself more miserable than I was to start out. So to fill the hole that was only widened by my venture into book #1, I desperately seek book #2. And 2 becomes 20 becomes 200 and I am left with a really big itch that I can scratch no more.
And I find myself asking this question: Would I rather itch than not?
I have found that discontent is a sin that 100% of human beings struggle with. The devil feeds on discontent. I’m discontent in my singleness, I’m going to sell myself short. I’m discontent in my wealth, I’m going to be a greedy greedy-face. I’m discontent with life, I’m going to end it.
I’m discontent with life so I’m going to escape into a book.
I’ve been convicted a lot recently about being content in my circumstances. A direct result of that is a dramatic decrease in the amount of fiction I read. I try to get back into it, I really do. But books become less appealing when I stop comparing my life to them. Conversely, I hate how I feel after reading certain types of books. I find myself desiring a life that isn’t mine and when the book is over I itch!
My reading nightstand has probably four non-fiction books and two fiction books on it at the moment. I’m trying to read the fiction. I really am. But oddly my tastes have changed. I don’t really like crawling into bed with mosquitoes. I’d rather not itch.