28+ quotes from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis

Quotes from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

C.S. Lewis ·  185 pages

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“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“…the greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects, we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“While friendship has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“I call it Joy. 'Animal-Land' was not imaginative. But certain other experiences were... The first is itself the memory of a memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult or find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to 'enormous') comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?...Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse... withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased... In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else... The quality common to the three experiences... is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again... I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Tea should be taken in solitude.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“I could never have gone far in any science because on the path of every science the lion Mathematics lies in wait for you.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be'.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to "know of the doctrine." All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“The First [Friend] is the alter ego, the man who first reveals to you that you are not alone in the world by turning out (beyond hope) to share all your most secret delights. There is nothing to be overcome in making him your friend; he and you join like raindrops on a window. But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one. It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right? He is as fascinating (and infuriating) as a woman. When you set out to correct his heresies, you will find that he forsooth to correct yours! And then you go at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night, or walking through fine country that neither gives a glance to, each learning the weight of the other's punches, and often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends. Actually (though it never seems so at the time) you modify one another's thought; out of this perpetual dogfight a community of mind and a deep affection emerge.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. “Emotional” is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events. It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“The universe rings true whenever you fairly test it.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of man, and His compulsion is our liberation.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Liking an author may be as involuntary and improbable as falling in love.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“As to...old composers like Schubert or Beethoven, I imagine that, while modern music expresses both feeling, thought and imagination, they expressed pure feeling. And you know all day sitting at work, eating, walking, etc., you have hundreds of feelings that can't be put into words. And that is why I think that in a sense music is the highest of the arts, because it really begins where the others leave off.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“I am struck here by the curious mixture of justice and injustice in our lives. We are blamed for our real faults but usually not on the right occasions.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all. (And notice here how the true training for anything whatever that is good always prefigures and, if submitted to, will always help us in, the true training for the Christian life)”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“I was still young and the whole world of beauty was opening before me, my own officious obstructions were often swept aside and, startled into self-forgetfulness, I again tasted Joy. ... One thing, however, I learned, which has since saved me from many popular confusions of mind. I came to know by experience that it is not a disguise of sexual desire. ... I repeatedly followed that path - to the end. And at the end one found pleasure; which immediately resulted in the discovery that pleasure (whether that pleasure or any other) was not what you had been looking for. No moral question was involved; I was at this time as nearly nonmoral on that subject as a human creature can be. The frustration did not consist in finding a "lower" pleasure instead of a "higher." It was the irrelevance of the conclusion that marred it. ... You might as well offer a mutton chop to a man who is dying of thirst as offer sexual pleasure to the desire I am speaking of. ... Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Straight tribulation is easier to bear than tribulation which advertises itself as pleasure.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man's life than the discovery that there do exist people very, very like himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“That is why I often find myself at such cross-purposes with the modern world: I have been a converted Pagan living among apostate Puritans.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


“Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not 'a religion', nor 'a philosophy.' It is the summing up and actuality of them all.”
― C.S. Lewis, quote from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life


About the author

C.S. Lewis
Born place: in Belfast, Ireland
Born date November 29, 1898
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