Friday, January 28, 2005


I am working on a paper on shame and sincerity in Plato's Gorgias. Thinking about what shame is reminded me of a quotation from C. S. Lewis's Great Divorce (ch. 8). For those who haven't read it, the setting of the story is a valley on the threshold of heaven where spirits from heaven attempt to persuade souls arriving from purgatory to leave behind their sins; there is no room at all for their sins in heaven. This quotation is from one heavenly spirit trying to persuade a soul from purgatory, who is ashamed to be seen in her ghostly condition, to step into "infinite happiness." The spirit replies:

An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don’'t you remember on earth -- there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it -- if you will drink the cup to the bottom -- you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds.

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