The Dancing Puritan

Friday, May 10, 2013

Looking through the Windows of Narnia

Alister McGrath in C.S. Lewis: A Life discusses how to read the Narnia novels. He encourages us to see the Narnia novels as rooms in a house. Once inside we wander around the house, taking everything in. But we realize that the 'rooms in this house have windows.'  And when we look through them, we see things in a new way. We can see farther than before, as the landscape opens up in front of us. And what we come to see is not an accumulation of individual facts, but the bigger picture which underlines them. When seen this way, our imaginative experience of Narnia enlarges our sense of reality. Living in our own world feels different afterwards (285).

Reading Ecclesiastes has a similar impact. At first glance it would be easy to imagine that Ecclesiastes reflects the bitterness of an old man who has come to think that there is no ultimate meaning in life. It might be imagined that the old man (Solomon) sees life as an empty existence and one that has been essentially wasted by him. After all even the best things that we acquire, see, do, feel and know here are fleeting. They are a puff of smoke rising from a deep pit. The sun rises, the sun sets. People are born and they die. One man makes money and the lazy man spends it. Seasons of peace are interrupted by war.

And yet, strangely it seems at first glance, after all of the old man's supposed grumpiness has been aired, he commends pleasure, joy, eating, drinking and enjoying marriage.

The things that we see and are able to enjoy are seen because a light shines on them. They are not the light but they tell us that the light is real.

Jonathan Edwards said, God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.

Herein is the key to Narnia and Ecclesiastes. The scattered beams of family, friends and food point to the fountain. The stream of pleasure that tickles our toes, if followed, will lead to a vast and infinite ocean.

C.S. Lewis wrote, I believe the sun has risen, not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.