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Screwtape Proposes A Divorce

Monday, September 18th

Pray do not ask me, dear reader, how the following correspondence fell into my possession. Suffice it to say that the C.S. Lewis Estate’s legal counsel prevents me from revealing very much on that subject, and my own legal counsel says I mustn’t tempt fate on this score. I chafe sorely at these constraints; nonetheless, the litigious nature of modern society is not easily gainsaid.

In any case, to the point: if you ever doubted that devils desire to destroy marriages between humans as much as they desire to destroy the marriage between a soul and its creator, here is some evidence for you. The names have been changed to protect those innocent of copyright infringement.

Eric Metaxas
New York, 2004

**

My dear Gallstone,

The question as to whether you shd.encourage your male subject to covet his neighbour’s wife made me shriek with laughter. You are such a literal devil! Of course if opportunity presents itself, you certainly should. But our Enemy’s command can be broken in much more general ways, so there’s no need to try and focus yr. patient toward any one specific person. Badness, no! Getting your man to covet anyone at all, including fictional characters, is just as good, and sometimes even better, about which more later. But this brings up a subject I’ve long meant to expand upon and now shall: that of creating unrealistic expectations.

Traditionally this is one of the most effective techniques by which our tribe has weakened and sundered marriages since the hateful institution began, and you would do well to master it. The most simple way of doing this is immed. following some kind of row (great or small, it doesn’t much matter) and by then drawing your patient’s attention to someone who appears, at that moment, to have all of the qualities yr. patient’s spouse so pointedly lacks. For example, if the man’s wife had during their squabble been screaming at him or loudly criticizing him, all you must do is put in his path some reasonably attractive human female who is for some reason not talking and lo! he will see her as the perfect embodiment of demure womanhood, and as the very sort of person he ought to have married all along! Never mind the fact that the reason she is not talking is because she is sitting on a bus, reading her horoscope in one of those “women’s” magazines — or that away from these rare quiet moments on the bus she is known as the office motormouth and a malicious gossip of the first order. He wouldn’t believe it if you told him anyway. Only let her read about how she might meet a darkly handsome Aries that month and say nothing and he will be inflamed with ingratitude for every good thing his wife has ever done, and simultaneously beside himself with rage that he didn’t somehow marry this mute woman two rows ahead of him.

But creating unrealistic expectations in general has become infinitely easier than it was a mere century ago, owing to the rise of our Father’s ingenious invention, what our fatuous patients call the “media culture”. Good hell! What real spouse today can ever compare with the surgically and digitally enhanced models of perfection that are everywhere! In fact today, thanks to the proliferation of our technologies, these fictitious sirens are often more in our patients’ lives than their actual spouses. Fiction is the new reality, Gallstone! Take advantage of it! You see, inasmuch as our annoyingly inventive Enemy created reality we are in a bit of a bind — so whenever one may encourage a substitute for it, one mustn’t lose the opportunity! It doesn’t matter if the substitute is a rouged, mascaraed face on a magazine cover in a convenience-store checkout line; a bewigged tartlet on a billboard as yr. drowzy patient “commutes” to work; or an intensely sophisticated and clever actress in a banal sitcom (never mind that her witty words were scripted by a tubby, chainsmoking bald man!). Any of these can be used to great advantage in creating absurdly unrealistic expectations every bit as much as a real “neighbour’s wife”, so to speak. More on this later. Till then I remain,

Yr. most divisive Uncle, etc.
WASPHEAD.

* *

My dear Gallstone,

In re: my previous comments on the subject of unrealistic expectations, always and ever endeavor to put in your patient’s mind the idea that the most beautiful siren the screen is presently offering is someone he deserves. Whether it be Gloria Swanson or Joey Heatherton or someone more current — I am eternally old and can hardly remember these “tomatoes” from one decade to the next — make him think that she is the standard he shd. expect. Again, it doesn’t matter who it is, because these are hardly actual people anyway, certainly not what he sees. What he sees is 99 percent image and surface and this is exactly what we want for our purposes. (Viva Las Vegas, Gallstone!) So whoever is the image du jour (Lola Falana? Cher?) will do. But to keep current in this you might attend more of our media training classes down here. But even we can hardly keep up; I suppose we’re victims of our own success, eh? In time we will be able to create actually fictional characters, digital to the core, and keep your warty fingers crossed that this happens as soon as possible!

Now, yr. female patient is slightly less susceptible to this sort of thing from the physical side of things, but she can easily be convinced that her man isn’t enough of a “leader” or sensitive enough or some such balderdash if you’ll put in her path at some weak moment a screen “hero” (or better yet, tv hero) who possesses these qualities. This is a crude stratagem, but it is endlessly effective, and since she is recently unemployed and at loose ends, I recommend the mild soporific of an afternoon television drama.

Yr. ever disengaging Uncle,
WASPHEAD

**

My dear Gallstone,

I am gratified and favorably impressed that you should immediately upon my canny suggestion have begun to draw yr. female patient into the warm, soapy shallows of afternoon drama! These melodramatic dinosaurs have been a staple in our quiver for decades now. They are the sine qua non of televised unreality, and if you are able to get her genuinely addicted to one of these stories, you will have cut your work in half. It oughtn’t to take very long to convince her that the finest example of manhood on the planet is the evil doctor from such-and-such a show, if only someone could love him properly — and if she is typical, she will be deeply convinced that she can, that she must…. If ever a patient seems more the “bookish” sort try and put in her path one of those “romance” novels (we invented this genre ourselves, and it is surefire — get it? Sure fire?? Ha. ). In any case, the ability of these “books” to pull a woman out of reality and into our world is unparalleled. If she has enough scruples to feel any guilt over reading this suggest to her that she is only doing it to relax, or to take her mind off the myriad things that plague her. It is only a cup of herbal tea for her mind, a bubble bath with a plot… in a word, it’s not only completely harmless, it’s positively therapeutic. Besides, her husband doesn’t make enough money to send her to a “real” spa, so what choice does she have?

Also, if you can get hubby to make a negative comment about this new habit of hers (do try to do this) she will likely snarl at him and it will further convince her that he doesn’t understand her at all — certainly not the way “Lance” would if only she could somehow meet him, or someone like him…. Are you beginning to “catch my drift”, dear nephew?

Yr. cleaving Uncle
WASPHEAD

* *

My dear Gallstone,

I have thus far neglected to say that the marriage-busting division to which you have been assigned was in my day one of our less glamorous outposts, with so few assignments that it consisted of just a few old devils who hardly bothered to put in a full day’s work. Although being assigned there was as close as we come to having a holiday in hell. But today! Ever since our comprehensive “down-with-marriage” initiative in the 60s and 70s there is no busier more bustling division in our North American headquarters, and you’d best leap up to speed immediately, or expect to be quickly demoted to something far less glamorous, like Asst. Poltergeist Manager, hey?

Now then, one of our cheif stratagems in sundering marriages — one with which you must become thoroughly familiar — has to do with what the humans now call finding their “soulmate.” Don’t snigger, Gallstone. Many of them have bought into this ingenious folly and you must press your advantage here whenever possible. If you can push this paradigm well enough, every spousal difficulty may immediately cause one or perhaps both spouses to realize that he/she has made the ghastly error of marrying someone other than that perfect “soulmate.” Thus, rather than trying to remedy the difficulty, they will spend their energies in how they might get out of the current marriage and into the “right” one as soon as legally possible! It’s the only thing to do — one must be “true” to oneself, no? Anything else is sheer hypocrisy! But perhaps some background on this wondrous “soulmate” paradigm is in order.

Now then, according to this felicitously popular idiocy each person on Earth is “meant” for someone else — one “special” person who will at last understand them, like just what they like (pepperoni pizza, early Billy Joel etc.), dislike just what they dislike (amorous dachshunds, Sting, etc.), and so on. This person will magically anticipate their needs and telepathically read their minds. Just like our ersatz doc “Lance”, when he’s not switching medical charts, what?

That such persons do not exist is to be kept TOP SECRET, Gallstone. Let’s be blunt: these humans are scouring the globe for someone with whom a relationship will require absolutely no work or compromise whatever. I asked you not to snigger. Many adult humans who have long ago dismissed Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as myths somehow persist in believing this person to exist. And of course the fact that many Hollywood movies come across like some version of “Yes, Virginia, there IS a soulmate” is all to the good! In fact, many people who don’t even believe in the existence of our Heavenly Enemy, nonetheless stick to their faith in this “soulmate.” Don’t let them see the contradiction in this, Gallstone, whatever you do. The moment they realize that if there is such thing as a soulmate then there must be Someone up there doing the coordinating, your goose is cooked. Of course if they knew the Someone doing the coordinating they would know that His idea of love and marriage has nothing to do with this soulmate nonsense, but do not let them realize this contradition! Do and you’ll be herding poltergeists in condemned mansions before you can say “whoopsie!”

Even if they aren’t entirely convinced there is just one person out there who fits this description, they often have a vague sense that they may find something close to such a person — if only they could get out of this hateful marriage and be free! Our strategy in all of this is effectively twofold: if they have married someone with whom they get along reasonably well, we encourage them that that magically special and truly perfect match is still out there… somewhere, just around the bend” and with a kind of predictability that would stun Nostradamus they’ll soon enough think about this the moment things go sour, often dashing an otherwise solid marriage in the process. If they destroy their marriage and run off with their supposed “soulmate” then we watch and wait till their new partner inevitably dissappoints them, perhaps even in the same way their ex-spouse did! Then we simply sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch them collapse in unravelling misery and self-torture. Who says there are no perks to this job, Gallstone?

Yr. rupturing Uncle
WASPHEAD

* *

My dear Gallstone,

Your female patient’s recent employment scotches our plans to continue using the dreamy, stubbled spectre of “Lance” effectively, and for this I am sorry, but perhaps he’s served his purpose. Also, her newfound financial independence from hubby is all to the good! It makes a clean exit all the likelier should the opportunity present itself, and we’ll see what we can do along those lines. I love the idea that she is already working late hours with a male colleague — and a Latin-complexioned one at that! Perhaps he’s just the soulmate she’s been looking for, of which “Lance” was just a type and shadow! Can you encourage this new chap to leave off shaving for a day or two so that he might look somewhat stubbled like his faux-medical predecessor? Just a thought. But do try and keep our patient in close and extended proximity with this wonderful fellow! The worm turns! Au revoir, “Lance”; hola, Ramon!

Yr. eternally disassembling Uncle
WASPHEAD

* *

My dear Gallstone,

So hubby is already jealous of Ramon, eh? Excellent, Gallstone. Now comes the delicious part: you must now coax him into doing something really foolish, something that might make his wife see him as hopeless, pathetic, beyond the pale, unmanly. If he’s really desperate you will have several opportunities to get him to do something self-destructive, something he’d never otherwise have considered. Perhaps he can take the first steps toward getting hair plugs… or better, a prosthetic chin implant! They’re all the rage. Or perhaps he can seize upon his wife’s wandering affections as an excuse to throw caution to the winds himself and make a date with that everlastingly giggly 22-year-old with the tattoos in the far cubicle. Must think about this. Be inventive, Gallstone! Desperation is our chiefest ally. Carpe diem, etc.

Yr. Uncle,
WASPHEAD

* *

My dear Gallstone,

I am inconsolable with fury. That your male patient has fallen so low as to become involved with those “Promise Keepers” folks is not — how shall I say this, Gallstone? — a gold star on your chart. This was most emphatically not the sort of desperate act I had in mind! Our side has let thousands and thousands of nicely percolating divorces slip through our greasy talons as a result of these blasted PK meddlers — but I thought their day had come and gone? Was it not merely a “nineties” phenomenon? How have you let this happen?! Are they still having their execrable “stadium events” or is this some other version of their shenanigans?? Oh, how I loathe those nitwits with their ludicrous fanny packs and water bottles and tacky “witnessing” tee-shirts! And those absurd beachballs! Gah!

But the idea that you waited so long to report on this wretched development — so long that his spouse has responded favorably to his flowers and apologies — is enough to make me self-incinerate with rage! Already I have a foul blistery rash that worsens with each irritating moment! I really am beside myself, Gallstone. You shall not embarrass me this way again. As warned, you’ll pay dearly for your error. To wit: your spook mansion is ready and waiting. Happy ghost herding. I really could just implode! This unrelenting itching will drive me to distraction!

Yr. unpalliated Uncle,
WASPHEAD

[Ed. note: At this point the manuscript seems to have become hopelessly — and, one assumes, irreversibly —charred.]

_____

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