Jack, Clive and Aldous


While the world rightly remembers an icon American hero today, the deaths of two other culture shapers on the same day in 1963 are practically eclipsed.

November 22, while John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, were riding in an open convertible through the streets of downtown Dallas, I was headed to school as a 2nd grade student in Perth, Western Australia. The same day, Clive Staples Lewis was in his last hours in Oxford, England, having been in and out of the hospital for two years after kidney failure and a heart attack. Exactly one week before his 65th birthday, CS Lewis collapsed in his home and died a few minutes later. Lewis was arguably the greatest Christian thinker of the 20th century. What sets him apart from other literary and theological giants is that his impact on culture was multidimensional: his fictional series, The Chronicles of Narnia, has captivated adults and children alike the world over. Lewis's nonfiction on the Christian faith was an unusual blend of head and heart, melting the hearts of cynics and expanding the depth of understanding of the faithful. His life cast a very long shadow, both in his generation and those to come; unfortunately, his death went largely unnoticed.


A few hours earlier the same day in Los Angeles, another intellectual giant of his generation, unable to speak, asked his wife for an injection of LSD as he lay on his deathbed. His legacy stands in sharp contrast to that of Kennedy and Lewis, but perhaps no less impacting. Aldous Huxley's existential questions caught the attention of millions of readers, but as 20th century angst began to take hold in the Western world, it was his landmark novel, Brave New World, that became required reading for an entire generation of high school students throughout the English-speaking world.