Looking at the life and work of C.S. Lewis today took me to the information that he died in 1963. I was three years old. But wait a sec. Isn't that the same year JFK was shot and Martin Luther King, Jr, too? So I looked it up. That was quite a year.
John Lennon's son Julian was born that year. So were Johnny Depp, Lisa Kudrow, Ann Patchett, and my little brother Jim.
And yes, JFK and MLK left us that year. And C.S. Lewis. And Sylvia Plath, Pope John XXIII, Edith Piaf, and Aldous Huxley -- and a mere few months before her husband's brains were splattered into the car where she was riding, Jacqueline Kennedy also lost their prematurely born infant son Patrick.
Looking at this list feels odd somehow. I'm looking at something I cannot quite see. In January of that year, George Wallace took office proclaiming, ""segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!" and the black student Harvey Gnatt entered Clemson. Alcatraz closed in March, and MLK's Letter From Burmingham Jail came out in April. Dr. No came to U.S. theaters, and Castro went to the Soviet Union. And then in June, Wallace had to step aside for black students.
In November, no one much notices that Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis both die on the same day - JFK has been killed, and it's all anyone can think about.
And I wonder about this.
I wonder about the whole year.
I think things like ... it seems nearly certain that there is such a thing as "the energy in the universe" at particular times ... and how much like the ocean is the stream of time with mankind in it - sometimes storms pass through and rearrange the landscape and the people wonder if it is better to be dead than to be in this storm ... and then I notice that the storm passes. Energy shifts. In December of 1963, Disney releases The Sword in the Stone and a new generation warms to the story of King Arthur, and the Beatles "Wanna Hold Your Hand." And of all things, the ubiquitous smiley face enters our cultural vocabulary, thanks to its creator Harvey Ross Ball.
What sort of creature is man, that he turns from local, cultural, and global shocks and fears and cataclysms, and ends by embracing the innocuous smiley face? Whatever kind he is, he is at least capable of greatness. And whatever kind he is, he is connected to all the others who are human too. All of those people and all of those events have become part of the light and air and soil in which the people have been ever since. It all mattered.