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Today is the 50th anniversary of not one, but three influential men: John F. Kennedy (as if you could miss that news), C.S. Lewis (all the Christians say “Woohoo!”), and Aldous Huxley (“Hey! It’s that guy!”). Kennedy is getting the most attention by far, but Lewis is also getting his due. Poor Huxley.
I’ve never understood the appeal of Kennedy. He was a mediocre president, had some spectacular disasters, and was morally icky. And he was a politician. We deified a politician, bless our hearts. His chief appeal seems to be that he died young and left a good-looking corpse. His presidency and death are also at the starting point of the obsessiveness with youth. As Craig Ferguson says, that’s why everything sucks.
Obviously, the death of any president is going to have a profound effect on a nation. But the lasting appeal of Kennedy seems solely because of his image and not because of any real worth. The good news is this is probably the last big anniversary with Kennedy while the Baby Boomers are still influential enough to make a fuss. The rest of the Kennedy clan seems to be washing out, so it looks like the scourge of big hair and toothy smiles is retreating.
I think C.S. Lewis has had a much more lasting and meaningful impact than Kennedy, and not just because I’m a huge Lewis fan girl. (Although I am a huge Lewis fan girl. I even named my dog after him!) His stories, his wisdom, and his diagnosis and predictions about the Abolition of Man have had an enormous impact on Christian thought, especially in recent years.
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Finally, Aldous Huxley also died on November 22, 1963. He is the least remembered of the three, but like Lewis, I think at least some of his ideas are more relevant that Kennedy. He is most well-known for his unique dystopian novel Brave New World. He argued that we would not be enslaved by terror and fear, but rather by our passions and greed.
I think Huxley and Orwell have both been vindicated. Dangit. But, while I think Huxley was prescient, he hasn’t had a lasting impact like Lewis or even Kennedy. He’s the poor Cassandra of the trio, but he certainly deserves our attention.
Peter Kreeft wrote an interesting book called Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley, which examines the philosophies of the three men. It’s a short, and very interesting read. I highly recommend it. It’s on my bookshelves somewhere, I’m going to dig it out and read it.
So that’s my opinion on three influential men. Who do you think has had the most lasting impact?