Sunday, August 22, 2010

It Reminds Me of Straw (cont'd.)

Leaving off from where I left off before, the delineations of Lewis's version of Christianity are replete with myth--with what he very readily calls "magic" not so much for lack of words, but rather as a means to remind us that the only way to appreciate him is to understand the very real and very terrible reality that the Christ story is full of paradoxes and indeed can only be so as it is the ultimate manifestation of that which we call truth: a story where we must say "magic" so as to speak of "objective efficacy which cannot be further analyzed" (103). But what most people consider real and what others may consider false might indeed be one in the same--might, mind you, but not certainly. A hill which looks blue from afar is just as real as the same hill which is more green upon approaching . . . but the states of 'green' and of 'blue' are both equally good facts (Malcom). And so, God is as Lewis notes, the closest and most distant Being one could know, just as the fictive Aslan is both great and terrible. In an argument which I do not have time to fully consider, let alone address, Lewis reasons a rather unconventional view of 'other' religions which most people have been more than willing to overlook in their hero-worship; namely, that Lewis viewed religions outside the fold of Christ as different mediums through which those particular peoples can and may (and do) reach God. Perhaps this argument in particular is contingent upon his view of myth in relation to reality in relation to Objectivity. If Abraham was justified by faith and faith alone (and he was, mind you), what of the isolated natives who cling to Pantheism--people who have heard nothing of the Christ story and if they had, may very well have cast it aside as inanely ludicrous--a guess, I think, history has shown to be more fact than speculation. A situation we read of in Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart.'

But perhaps the most interesting and complex issue dealt with in 'Malcom' isn't the idea of prayer itself--the best medium of which is probably prayer without words, an act most people will never achieve--but rather the idea of space in relation to time--briefly mentioned and done so only in the form of "guesses."

I'm not conversant in Einstein's theory of relativity, but what I do know is that it left an indelible impression on Lewis--an impression which can have only acted as a reinforcement to the idea that everything we see and know is "a real lie." The couch I'm sitting on and the walls about me are good so long as I take them for what they are--not 'solid' realities, but rather indications of some other Reality. This is not Mysticism, again not hyperbole. As in Narnia, you must travel 'further up and further in' to realize that everything you had known before was both true and false, real and unreal. Physics has only shown us that this couch is not a couch and these walls not walls, but rather aggregations of atoms at whose centers and in whose depths exist not pictures or tangibles, but mathematics. And so you get the morning after the dream, where the realization is one in which . . .

"to be God is to enjoy an infinite present, where nothing has yet passed away and nothing is still to come. . . The Dead might experience a time which was not quite so linear as ours--it might, so to speak, have thickness as well as length. Already in this life we get some thickness whenever we learn to attend to more than one thing at once. Once can suppose his increased to any extent so that though, for them as for us, the present is always becoming the past, yet each present contains unimaginably more than ours . . . . our creaturely limitation is that our fundamentally timeless reality can be experienced by us only in the mode of succession." (109-10).

Expanded just so, the idea must extend complimentarily to theology, where "God exists not in space and time but space and time in God." I think this has why it has been so hard for me to pray, and for so long seemed so ludicrous. One prays--and by one I mean for this purpose a Christian--because he is told to, in much the same way that he is told not to forsake the assembly (and so must sacrifice his Sunday mornings to services), not to lie (when the idea is so tempting, the means so easy), and not to steal (when it is all too feasible to do so). But I do not think prayer is simply a matter of discipline. We are told that God is love, but to argue reflectively is to speak an untruth: love is not God, not always. Charity, yes. Mere affection, no. When we are told that God loves His creatures and wants us to be happy, we are not told that the way to achieve this happiness will be easy, will be handed to us, or will even be at once easily recognizable. The way up, as Eliot reminds us, is the way down. Free will leaves virtue open to ascent or to retrograde; it has not given us the excuse to 'break rules' since rules were created to protect man from his grievous and lamentable status as a Fallen creature. We will fail, we are told. But we are given no right--indeed have no right--to transgress the biting and clawing nag within us--universal morality, Lewis calls it. But back to prayer . . .

In this same short book, Lewis criticizes both the intelligentsia and the common people: extremes, you could argue, for he criticizes them in what they lack and for what they forget. The person of less intelligence--not the idiot--may come to view his Christian theology simply as obeying the old man with the white beard. But who in history has every perished for believing in or praying to such a thing? The danger, I think, lies in propagating what is only some tenuous shadow--an echo--of some greater and thicker Reality. The elite, Lewis argues, have argued that prayer is ridiculously as aims to create predictables: you pray to control that which you, alone, cannot. But "to live in a predictable world is not to be a man," for much of history--life itself--depends a very great deal on unpredictables. We do not pray for our story to be written for us: the cold and lonely truth is that we must write it ourselves in the ink of choice. In much the same way, it is the intellectuals who forget that the Author of the universe created a Word to overarch the very nature of human history. Lewis speaks, naturally, of Christ, who, from His own prayer in Gethsemane--filled with as much anxiety as it was with trembling--to his slow and barbarous torturing on the cross--a scene which did not become a symbol of Christian theology until after it had been forgotten--, exudes a parallel situation to our own.

We are shown the uncomfortable anxiety and the public ridicule and the taxing march to death because it is our own.

We were never guaranteed anything but the cold, hard reality that this world is the wrong one: the middle ground of wrongs and rights which can lead to some deepened, timeless reality where the beings there know nothing of morality. "Joy is the serious business of heaven." And I think this is what Lewis is getting at, for the most part, in 'Malcom.'

But only guesses. So that upon reflecting on your own thoughts, like Aquinas, you might respond that it reminds you "of straw."

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