Saturday, June 12, 2010

C.S. Lewis, the Grocery Store Cashier, and the Kaleidoscope

I'm buying blueberries for the Saturday Morning Pancakes, and I'm casually talking to my favorite cashier, Anthony.  (He's just so great!  He is always in a good mood, and he says stuff like, "You're having blueberry pancakes?  That's FANTASTIC!"  His enthusiasm puts my own energy to shame.)

Anthony needs to get something, and another cashier, older and weathered, calls out:

"Anthony, please let me help you!  I'm just standing here doing nothing, and when that happens, I might start thinking.  And that is not good."  She laughs and looks up at us. 

I can't help myself.  I feel the flair coming.  "Why isn't it good for you to start thinking?" I ask her.  Anthony and I are smiling at her, and she leans down over her register.

"Well, you know," she pauses and looks down. "It's just better for me not to be thinking.  I don't know what kind of thoughts are going to come into my head."  She's serious.  She's very serious. 

"That's so true," I say, wanting to throw my arms around her.  What pain is she so terrified of?  What thought of the past or fear of the future haunts her?

I think of a passage in C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters.  The demons know the best way to make a person miserable is to cause them to fixate on the past (the realm of regret and shame) or the future (the realm of lust, greed, and fear).

Ah, but if a person rests in the present moment, that's where happiness exists.

Lewis writes of the demon's project:

"Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human. . . to live in the Past. . . for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.  We [also] 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 of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present."

Lewis and the cashier remind me to think about my own thoughts.  It was a simple conversation with a tired cashier, but she knew the importance of present-moment thinking and delighting in the work in front of her.  I paused to think about the rigorous attention I want to give to my own thoughts.  Living with flair means redirecting, recalibrating, and refocusing every thought with a lens that makes me find meaning, wonder, beauty, and joy in whatever is happening right now.  

It's like my mind and all its diverse and scattered thoughts--potentially terrible and provoking bad moods and depressive episodes--come at me like a kaleidoscope of particles.

I aim everything toward the light, give it a turn, and suddenly. . . beauty.


Heather said...

I can't believe I waited THIS LONG to quote C.S. Lewis.

Heather said...

The new template seems dramatic, but I like it.

Meg McGinty said...

I can't believe I've waited THIS long to start reading C.S. Lewis

Anthony the cashier said...

Heather, thank you for mentioning me in your blog. I'm going through a very tragic time right now, this past week has been hell, and I'm so glad I read this because it brought a smile to my face, and I really haven't had too much of one this week, believe it or not. Thank you again. This really made my day. You're great.

LivewithFlair said...

Anthony the Cashier! You should start your own blog called "Anthony the Cashier!" You always make us feel great. I'm so sorry to hear about your week. Very tragic doesn't sound good at all. I'll check in on you when I come to Giant next.

Anthony the cashier said...

Hey Heather do you have Facebook? You can friend me if you want, Anthony Michael Loreno.