Thursday, November 10, 2011

Old Knocks Club: C.S. Lewis

It seems only just to grant the position of first initiate into the Old Knocks Club to Mr. Clive Staples Lewis.  He exemplifies, through his work and lifestyle, everything admirable in the Old Knocks Club.  His list of qualifications is staggering: Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford; Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge; author; Christian apologist; member of the Kolbitar and later the Inklings…the list goes on and on.

Lest we forget, he also had that impeccable Old Knock fashion sense as well…

Old Knockery

The name “Old Knock” is a take-off of a nick-name for one William T. Kirkpatrick, given to him by the author C.S. Lewis.  Kirkaptrick, Lewis’s tutor, was affectionately monikered “The Great Knock”.

Old Knocks, while not necessarily “great”, are not necessarily “old” either.  They could, very likely, be clumped together with that ever-growing group termed “Young Fogeys”.  However, the latter term has been expanded to such a degree that it is actually meaningless—typical of such sociological groupings.  The Old Knocks share a love of the classic (and classical) with the Young Fogeys.  However, the Old Knocks are slightly less interested in the extravagant stylings (i.e. Dandyism) that seem to have over-powered this once more conservative group.  Instead, the Old Knocks prefer to pursue their own eccentric passions—typically of an intellectual nature—far from the madding crowd.  Old Knocks tend to be a bit reclusive, preferring to hide away with dusty books and paintings in a dusty attic, than sitting in a fashionable cafĂ© (or riding in a bicycle mob), creating a scene.

To assume that all Old Knocks share the same passion or area of interest would be a mistake.  What unites them is not what they are passionate about, but the fact that they all have a passion, and that the passion tends to fall under the “classical” heading.  Whether it be Literature, Music, Painting, Architecture, History, etc., the area of interest and expertise is what unites them. 

But, it would also be a mistake to assume that Old Knocks are entirely uninterested in material preoccupations as well.  Again, it would be unjust to put parameters on an Old Knock’s material interest, but, as with their area(s) of expertise, they would be interested in things of the past.  This gets at the very heart of the Old Knock.  Old Knocks are Romantics.  Like the Young Fogeys, the Trads and any other “Reminiscent Culture” group that seeks their inspiration from a by-gone era, the Old Knocks long for an apparently simpler, more comfortable time.  Like the Young Fogeys, they tend to emulate the earlier quarter to half of the 20th century.

Reminiscent Culture

There is something appealing about looking back to previous decades and longing for certain aspects.  This appeal is most easily seen in the continuous “retro” fads of the past twenty years (or more).  I think the appeal is that it is easy to see a decade, or span of time, as a whole from a distance of twenty years or more.  It is more difficult to see or feel the continuity of the “current time” and this is often times unsettling.  So, we often times look back, wistfully, at a past time period.  It’s easier to understand the events and “rules” of the time period from a distance.  Most of us long to know the “rules”.  However, the rules are constantly in flux and are being written as we live them.  It is only in retrospect that the rules take shape.