Fifty Shades of Screwtape: Missive 5

[The Screwtape Letters written by C. S. Lewis present the tale of a demon-tutor (named Screwtape) who serves Satan. Screwtape’s task is to instruct his student Wormwood in the ways of evil. My previous post provides background material explaining the letter reproduced below, fifth of seven in a series of posts. You may also wish to read my previous post Love In Search in which I refer to Lanier’s poem The Symphony.]


Wormwood This is not the first time a disgusting human has veered unexpectedly off course, intent on reformation. Don’t panic. No far-reaching damage has yet been done. (Maybe you’ve forgotten your lessons in earthling history. That nasty priest Martin Luther, who failed to convince his peers of the need for reformation, produced such religious disunion that you and I could only dream of causing.) If your patient is inclined toward some sort of reformation, we have other methods for managing his destruction down that path.

Your patient’s sudden effort at trying to clean up his life is simple to explain. I’m told being an expectant father wakens all sorts of primal energies. I’ve seen it before, and there’s a stack of anecdotal material on the subject available for your consultation. We can deal with this phenomenon.

Just answer my question:  how did this happen? They were sleeping in separate bedrooms! He was spending every waking hour drinking in the skin and sex smorgasbord. How did this happen?! I understand the mechanics of vermin multiplication, but I’m stretched to my limit trying to comprehend the apparent holiday you and Grendvald enjoyed — simultaneously — while the aforementioned procreative activity took place!

If I must decipher the incoherency of your last communication, it is that your patient’s reversal has come about because of a silly inconsequential poem. Is that the essence of it? Eight ridiculous words transformed him from a near-addictive slave to an attentive, loving husband? “Music is love in search of a word.”[1] You can’t be serious. He actually told her, “That’s me!”? As you’ve described it, “He poured out his heart to her, weeping like a dog, and her heart filled with compassion for him.” I guess all that tenderness opened the floodgates for forgiveness and the all-too-inevitable love-coupling.

Nevertheless, I’m dumbstruck that a line of poetry could be the instrument of your undoing. There must be some other explanation, for I’m not finding this possibility mentioned anywhere in the database resources of Our Father’s vast archives.

I’m aware that your patient’s background report reflects an early dedication to music. He received much pleasure in his youth from mastering five musical instruments and writing songs to entertain his brothers. I also know he and his wife met at a concert, and on their next date, he serenaded her with ballads and his guitar. So what? The harmonies within him have surely died … the searing should have taken care of that! Doesn’t he understand? Poetry and music are both childish fantasies — nothing more! Tell him that, and then repeat it! You must help him to understand by filling his head with noise. If not a migraine headache, then some kind of ringing in his ears should suffice. Just drown those melodies out, at once!

[At this point, several lines of handwritten text are completely unintelligible.]

Forgive me. I get a little crazy whenever the notion of pleasure surfaces. We are stymied by an incompetent research staff, all of whom are incapable of reproducing one — just one — simple pleasure. The Enemy has his secrets and this is one of them. We are surrounded by cackle, groanings and chatter here. It’s part of the cost of doing business, so to speak, and it’s something to which we’ve grown accustomed. It doesn’t bother me one way or the other.

But those humans! “Music is love in search of a word”? What can that gibberish possibly mean, and how, I ask you, can it have been the impetus for your patient’s sudden redirection??? Their music, whether symphony or hymn, is to me every bit as torturous as a slow, spring rain! Fingernails on a chalkboard I can take, but please don’t make me sit through four-part harmony.

But I digress. Back to the subject at hand, Nephew, it appears your patient is having a mini-identity crisis. Today, he’s Bob Dylan. Soon enough, with some insistent nudging on your part, he should go back to being Larry Flynt. He can forget his music … he has done so before. And then you begin the craving/addiction cycle again (it progresses much more quickly the second time he descends).

You must redouble your efforts and urge Grendvald to do the same. Over the next several months, the woman will become even more difficult to live with, and you can encourage your patient’s self-pity. In the meantime, I’ll need your written assessment about what you think went wrong. Before things get seriously out of hand, we may want to make some adjustments.






[1] From Sidney Lanier’s poem, The Symphony

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