I saw a post on a blog I follow (I didn't even read it, just glanced) that inspired me to take up that brick that I insisted on bringing to Italy with me which has ever since faithfully decorated my bookshelf. I'm referring to a volume of the works of C.S. Lewis, my attention attracted by The Great Divorce. So in a highly uncharacteristic way, I devoured the whole book in very little time.
I have no desire to write a summary. This is not a book report for English 101 and there are already lots of wonderful analyses of this work. Instead, I'd like to reflect on what struck me about this book which could be classified as both a novel and a theological reflection.
The protagonist mysteriously finds himself on a bus trip with an interesting bunch of folks who are headed upward from the "grey town", a place stuck in perpetual evening where the sun neither rises nor sets toward the heavenly sphere. Once arrived at their destination, they leave the bus realising that they have a ghostly sort of non-substantial form. They are infact, the souls of those who have not, or not yet, entered into life. To sum it up, they are not completely "real" but find themselves in the realm of reality where their presence can have no effect. The grass does not bend under their feet but rather pierces them, the water is like stone in their regard, remaining rigid even when trod upon. The shades then meet with the saved who have come to the antechamber of heaven to help them on their journey "into the mountains", the journey that will bring them face to face with Christ and allow them to become who they are. Only then will they have footprints, only then will they be truly present in the paradise that surrounds them, only then will what is for them hash reality turn to be the bliss of Truth.
Fantasy and analogy converge and give a powerful message; one that I personally would like to take with me as a companion for both the near and distant future. Our life is about one thing, this alone is important. We are on a journey toward the fulness of reality. We have been blessed with the possibility to taste it, to touch it, to love it but we cannot fully embrace it. It is harsh with those who refuse it, not for the sake of spite, or punishment, justice or whatnot but out of respect.
We are called into the mountains to undertake the journey that will rend our feet solid, our hands firm, our hearts warm. This is the purpose of life: to become who we are, to become real; so real that nothing matters but reality. To put it in evangelical terms it means to be "born anew" by the spirit of Christ. "He who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God" (Jn 3:21).
As far as I'm concerned, this is a reason to be at peace even when life can present the most absurd situations and the most difficult choices. It's cliché to say "in the end the only thing that matters..." so I will refrain from annoying my readers with such a phrase. Instead I would assert that here, now, later, tomorrow, forever the only thing that matters, has ever mattered and will ever matter is that man is created in Christ and redeemed by Him, his only task is to be free and to realise his freedom - God's precious and fragile gift entrusted to him.
Here is an excerpt from the book that I found to be particularly significant:
The choice of ways is before you. Neither is closed. Any man may choose eternal death. Those who chose it will have it. But if ye are trying to leap on into eternity, if ye are trying to see the final state of all things ad it will be (for so ye must speak) when there are no more possibilities left but only the Real, then ye ask what cannot be answered to mortal ears. Time is the very lens through which ye see - small and clear, as men see through a telescope - something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all. That thing is Freedom: the gift by which ye most resemble your Maker and are yourselves parts of eternal reality. But ye can see it only through the lens of Time, in a little clear picture, through the inverted telescope. It is a picture of moments following one another and yourself in each moment making some choice that might have been otherwise. Neither the temporal succession nor the phanthom of what ye may have chosen and didn't is in itself Freedom. They are a lens. The picture is a symbol: but it's truer than any philisophical theorem (or perhaps than any mistic's vision) that claims to go beyond it. For every attempt to shape eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom. Witness the doctrine of Predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two. And wouldn't Universalism do the same? Ye cannot know eternal reality by a definition. Time itself, and all acts and events that fill that Time, are the definition, and it must be lived. The Lord said we are gods. How long could ye bear to look (without Time's lens) on the greatness of your own soul and the eternal reality of her choice? (Ch. 13).
I highly reccomend the book to whomever may not have read it. It is both inspiring and entertaining.