The Great Divorce is a great story. It is not a perfect story. I’m thinking here of the episode of the Dwarf and the Tragedian. Short summary: there is a sinner who uses other people’s pity to manipulate them. His wife descends from Heaven to tell him to repent and be saved. In the process we learn that she doesn’t feel sorry for him any more. She doesn’t even feel sad that he’s damned. In Heaven there is no pity, Lewis says.

Well, bunk. (See here for why).

But Lewis’ idea that Heaven is pitiless is a solution to a problem. Rejecting the solution leaves the problem still around. What to do about it?

My solution was to argue that the joy of the blessed far outweighs the sorrow they feel and even that sorrow makes their joy possible.

Friend of the JG Arakawa has a more prosaic and more satisfying solution:

Suppose I am quite far gone in a desire for ice cream, such that having to go without it for a week sends me into tantrums of demoniac rage. My condition would be irrational and pitiable like unto the damned. Then a spiritually healthy bystander who is not afflicted with the same condition, looking at me, would suffer in sympathy — not on account of my not having ice cream, but on account of my irrational state of madness over it. In a certain respect the bystander’s suffering would be more real than my own, because there is an actual objective basis for it (my damnation), whereas the basis for my own suffering is purely irrational. At the same time, the bystander is far more spiritually equipped to deal with their own suffering and — if something can be done about my irrational state, to calmly undertake corresponding actions; and if nothing can be done, I suppose, then to avoid being “dog-in-the-mangered” into eternal suffering oneself (as CS Lewis would put it), by not letting my situation interfere with the other aspects of the bystander’s life.

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