Finally I'm sitting down to write a blog that has been a long time coming. Perhaps it is the nature of this post that makes it a difficult one to write, or perhaps i just haven't had the itch to write at all for a while. Either way, the topic is Heaven, or Hell, or, rather, the state of our soul now as it sheds light on eternity.
I just read "The Great Divorce" again. I plan to make it a yearly ritual. Why not, right? Its 146 of the easiest, story-like reading I've ever done. (OK, perhaps the Hardy boys were a bit easier to read). Not only its simplicity, but its poignancy makes it a little book i will not soon forget, but will relentlessly recommend.
I am not in the summarizing mood, so i will let you read what that back of the book says to entice you to read what lies within:
In The Great Divorce C.S. Lewis again employs his formidable talent for fable and allegory. The writer, in a dream, boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage thought Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations and comes to significant realizations about the ultimate consequences of everyday behavior...
The focus of the book is on the one-on-one conversations that are had between his bus mates and the supernatural beings. Each of the voyagers has some particular attitude, question, or opinion that the supernatural being is trying help rid them of.
In the case of one man, an artist, he wishes to know if he can paint in heaven, and if so, how soon he can start. He cannot let go of the talent, the way he found worth, even happiness, on earth. After a couple pages of fleshing out the man's real problem, the supernatural being answers, "It was all a snare. Paint was necessary down there, but it is also a dangerous stimulant. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn't stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower--become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations."
In the case of another man, a theologian, he is convinced of his relevant" ideas which are in line with the "spirit of the age," fashionable theology. He meets a supernatural being who used to be a colleague of his. Upon the being's request that he come with him deeper into Heaven, the man asks for a guarantee that he will be able to find a "wider sphere of usefulness" wherever the being takes him. He is given the answer, "No, I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God...hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched."
Unfortunately, in both situations, the eyes of the men were not opened. Their ideas about art and truth meant more to them than the reason they became interested in them in the first place, the God from whom all beauty and truth emanates. In so deciding, the men were caught in what Lewis called the "subtlest of snares" (examples include: a lover of books who, with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor)
There is, however, another kind of conversation that occurs later in the book. This one includes a man with a lizard on his shoulder. The lizard whispers things into his ear, consumes his attention. When a supernatural being asks if he can kill the pest (for it is the only way to be rid of him), there are a few pages of banter as the being convinces the man that the only way the man will be free is if he is given permission to kill the lizard, which may, in fact, end up killing the man. However, the man ends up convinced that "it would be better to be dead than to live with this creature." So, the being kills the lizard. Immediately not only the man, but the lizard also, are transformed. The lizard became a stallion and the man rode off into the high country with it.
I probably just wrote out about half the book for you, really its short. I've been intrigued by these stories in the past, by each persons journey, faith, stupidity, etc, but as much as I've enjoyed reading it or been challenged by each or certain conversations, none of the stories fit me exactly, duh.
So, I was thinking that if I could, if you could, get to a place where we can identify the kind of conversation we would have, then it would no longer be our conversation. I don't really know how clear that is, but I just mean that if i can figure out the questions i would ask, the earthly things (even good things like love, happiness, beauty) i would hold onto, or the personal aims that i wish to see fulfilled above the goals that God has for my life, then, and only then, can i begin to look for those answers, let go of those earthly ideas, and reorient my goals.
It is all about taking our focus off of ourselves so that we can become ourselves. It starts with pinpointing a conversation that we are already having, but just may not know it, for "this moment contains all moments". For each of us, what is that conversation?
This is part of the song that breaks forth after the lizard is transformed into a horse:
Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.