Happy Birthday Joy Davidman


Joy Davidman & C.S. Lewis

Born on this day in 1915 to a New York Jewish family Helen Joy Davidman was considered a child prodigy, graduating with a masters from Columbia aged 20. The poem below was written in 1936 in the period when she became an atheist and Communist, supporting the Republican cause in Spain.

In the 1940’s she and her first husband, William Lindsay Gresham, began researching religions seeking meaning in their lives. They looked at Judaism and even experimented with Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard’s system that would become Scientology. Ultimately they were attracted to Christianity, in particular by the writings of C.S Lewis.

Divorcing Gresham after he had a affair, Davidman moved to the UK, and ended up marrying C.S. Lewis. The marriage was largely one of convenience, their relationship was professional and they collaborated in work. When her Visa ran out Lewis offered to marry her to keep her in the UK. He wrote of her;

She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more

Snow in Madrid; by Joy Davidman

Softly, so casual,
lovely, so light, so light,
the cruel sky lets fall
something one does not fight.

How tenderly to crown
the brutal year
the clouds send something down
that one need not fear.

Men before perishing
see with unwounded eye
for once a gentle thing
fall from the sky.




Walking Away: by Cecil Day Lewis

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.



You are your house


I live in the countryside.  I love it there.  I love going to the City.  Usually it is Dublin City, a great city.  But where I spend most of my waking hours at present is in the limbo that lies between.   The soulless non-residential, half vacant wilderness that teeters on the M50.  The developers call it “Park West”.  It is neither a park, nor in the West, in the real sense of that word.

I am a great believer in the theory that physical well-being is strongly influenced by surroundings.  Church architects have long experience of this.

Catholic Church architects build churches as a celebration of the glory of God.  The theory being that the house of God should be a suitable vessel for God.  God’s house should be furnished better than the house of any Lord or Merchant.  Within the house of God there are touch points where you can talk to someone who can intercede with God on your behalf.  So there are side chapels dedicated to saints, altars, shrines, statues, votive candles etc.

Protestant church architects adopt a very different approach.  The more fundamentalist the church is the plainer is the chapel.  Bare boards bereft of ornament.  At its purest a blank space in which you can concentrate on a single goal, the contemplation of the Lord.

Farming community churches display sheaves of wheat, flocks and fruits, the cycles of ploughing, sowing, harvesting and flailing.  Farmers also like to hedge their bets, because they depend so fundamentally on nature to deliver a crop.  Farming churches are far more likely to incorporate elements of pre-Christian pagan fertility symbology.

The office space of a company tells you a huge amount about the values of the company and the way it operates.  If there are lots of offices you can expect a very hierarchical reporting structure.  Open plan offices tend to have a flatter structure, but don’t be fooled by an open plan floor that hides closed offices along one wall, or upstairs on the next floor.  The most collaborative companies tend to have multi-functional spaces where people flow in and out, join for a while and separate to corners for privacy.  They look more like restaurants than offices.

Houses also tell you about people.  So what does your house say about you?  Do you mind if your house is disordered as long as it is clean?  Are you happy to live in filth?  Are you an obsessive compulsive cleaner and organiser?  Does your house look more like an art gallery, or like a lumber room?  Do you like Zen-like clean space, or do you like to surround yourself with lots of beautiful, personal objects that remind you of people and incidents in your life?

If you cut out pictures of rooms that you like from Home Design magazines, and make a collage of them, what does your preferred home design look like?  Now, what does this say about you as a person?

Do you have a house that looks like an architect’s wet dream, all clear pure planes, light and space, a hymn to form, function and material integrity?  Do you live your life so others can look in and admire your style?  Are you prepared to wear clothes that are uncomfortable as long as they make you look stunningly good?

Or is your house like a comfortable womb?  A warm, cosy, personal space, for you and your close ones.  Somewhere you can retreat into away from prying eyes, out of the world.

Perhaps your home is a fortress, a castle, a refuge from the dangers of the world.

Or it could be a functional living space, an emotionless dorm where you perform needed functions of eating, sleeping, bathing etc until you can re-enter your real life.

Is the home you live in your creation?  Are you living in someone else’s dream?  How comfortable are you with that?  Is the compromise worth it?  Are you trying to change the other people you live with to live in the way that makes you happy?

Of course the Chinese have an entire science built around these questions.  Feng Shui.

Finally, how do you picture the landscape of the Jaberwocky?

Jaberwocky; by Lewis Carroll

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe he sought —

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’

He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.