My dear Wumpick,
So! You have had some limited success with the patient, in troubling her conscience (unreasonable scruples should always bear the tag “conscience” in her mind) about her (be sure she uses the lofty word) “vocation”. In fact, you have got her into such a state of confusion about her current activities, that she is not only unsure as to whether she wants to continue them, but she is actually unsure as to whether she even enjoys them. You do a great deal of crowing about this confusion you’ve encouraged, popping off little quotations from that old master of the arts, my esteemed predecessor, and repeating his jargon-filled nonsense about keeping the human beings from “joy”. If he had been a devil at heart he would have known there is no such thing. And yet he talks about the Enemy’s manufacture of it! as if it could be produced! as if it were not a myth altogether! You know very well this is a heresy that the Supreme Chancellors quashed as long ago as 1962.
As for the old devil himself—not to speak ill of the returned, but, if he had been a little less the artistic perfectionist in his own work, or a little less heterodox in his theory, he might still be acting with us today. (Though to be sure, assimilation into the bowels of Our Father Below is hardly the worst fate that could befall a Master Tempter.) At any rate, you seem unduly excited over the fact that you’ve succeeded in making the patient confused and “unhappy”. A lot of good that does us! Has she had any more outbursts of temper? Any special broodings against injustice and the deceitfulness of her fellow men? Well, then don’t talk to me about what a grand thing you’ve done. I can understand why it gives you pleasure, but it hasn’t really helped us at all.
It is necessary, if the work you have done so far is to be of any use (you see, my dear Wumpick, I shall try to save you—in spite of everything!), that you get her to take steps down the wrong track. Of course, it is usually necessary to muddle a human before he or she will do that, especially a human like yours, who’s not inclined to open rebellion against the Enemy (yet!). The work you’ve accomplished so far may be of some use there—but you can stop letting your ethereal chest puff out! What you have shown me is only a means to an end, a preliminary sortie, notes for a novel, a first kneading of the dough. You’ve done good work getting her muddled. I’ll admit that. Now we’ve got to get her to take a fall.
In my last letter I talked about pinning down her state in life. I hope you have done that research—the course we take next will depend very strongly upon what you have (or haven’t) found. In any case, you must by this time know what it is, more or less, that the Enemy wants her to do , and whether she is doing it or not. I trust, based on the patient’s Long Form Dossier, that it is nothing highly heroic, is it? No emergency response work? No inner city schools? No Missionaries of Charity? No contemplative nunnery? You’re probably a bit hang-dog about it; after all, if your patient is not going to try for greatness, what chance have you of thwarting it?
Luckily for us, your patient should (for our purposes) be feeling the exact thing herself. Oh, I don’t mean that you can just sit back and wait for her to feel existential angst because she isn’t saving the world and suffering mightily herself in the process. That level of guilt is something we work to produce. But produced it can be, and a mightily pleasant thing it is to watch it burgeon and swell. Try this phrase, Wumpick: “a Wimpy Apostolate.” They are all taught to think in terms of “vocation” and “apostolate” now. The patient thinks she knows what her “apostolate” is—you’d better know whether or not she’s right—why don’t I have your report, anyway? there must be some excuse—well then: she thinks she knows what her apostolate is; make sure (if she’s right about it) that she thinks it is a poor one. There is no better way of ensuring that she does her job badly, than if she thinks it is beneath other Christians' jobs. From there it is only a step to her thinking it is beneath her. (The word for this state of mind, Wumpick, the technical term you are searching for, is pride.) At the same time, the notion of “the Wimpy Apostolate” inclines the patient to see herself as having been lazy or undergenerous in her choice of life; and so in creeps with the pride at being better than her job a guilt at not having picked a harder one. (This is not the time to remind her that, strictly speaking, it is not she but the Enemy who picked her work. It is an excellent time, however, to use his little story about the talents to damning effect.)
You’ll be helped in all of this by the fact that she is American. Every human being, but Americans especially, tends to be a little Pelagius or a little Kant. They think that because a thing is hard, it is a good thing to do; they forget that virtue is like any other habit: difficult at first and easier as the training continues. It is not that they will ever be able stop trying to be good (we see to that, with a little help from the World and the Flesh); but at some point their trials at being good will become less obnoxious to them. This is especially true if the trials arise in or from the particular work that the Enemy intends them to do. It is not unknown for him to take someone unsuited for a job and plunk them into it—sometimes He likes to use weak tools for great deeds. But these are the rarae aves, the human miracles, the poor souls pulled out of their natural habitat in suspension of his usual course of action on purpose to astonish the world. (He is an everlasting showman, Wumpick. Screwtape called him a bourgeois at heart. He is not, of course; but He knows very well how to play to the bourgeoisie.) But more commonly He puts the human being somewhere where he or she belongs. That is what He likes to call “giving them a little taste of heaven on earth”—as if they belonged in heaven! Yes, He actually talks that way! Faugh!
But at any rate, at any rate: bear this in mind. If the patient is inclined to her work, as she most likely should be, then convince her that that is not because the Enemy intends her to be doing it, not because He in His mercy (that is how she will learn to call it if you are not careful) doesn’t bruise broken reeds, but because she has “flaked out” as the young Americans say, and chosen a Wimpy Apostolate. At least, you’ll put her out of sorts with her job. At best you may get her to haul up her roots and head of for Mali or somewhere equally unsuited to her talents and calling; and that will be a show well worth watching.
Your ever affectionate uncle,