If J.R.R. Tolkien gave me my personal myth, then it was his contemporary and friend, C.S. Lewis, gave me the scaffolding upon which it was built. When I was eight years old, my Nannah gave me a Christmas gift that was the beginning of my spiritual quest: Seven books by C.S Lewis called The Chronicles of Narnia. In the mythical world of Narnia I discovered a land where Christian symbolism coexisted happily with Greek and Roman mythology, British and Irish fairy tales, and children from the modern world. It wasn’t a retelling of the Bible or of fables or myths, it was something new, something deeply spiritual, something that captivated me and made me want more.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from Professor Lewis was the essential nature of perspective. In the final book of the Narnia series, The Last Battle, the physical world of Narnia is destroyed, but Aslan leads the forces of good go “further up, and further in” to a Narnia that is immortal. To enter this idyllic land, all must pass through a lowly stable’s door. When Aslan’s company has done so, they see a group of dwarves sitting in a tight circle amid the grass and flowers. These particular dwarves were traitors, duped into betraying their homeland by the forces of evil, after which they had been captured. Aslan sets them free, but oddly, they were not overjoyed at their release. When asked about their mood, the dwarves replied they could not be happy, still imprisoned in a dark, dank stable. Though they were surrounded by a world of beauty and light, the dwarves’ self-pity and despair made them utterly, hopelessly blind. No amount of reason could dissuade them and, in the end, Aslan and his companions moved on and left them sitting alone in their self-made prison, just over the threshold of Heaven’s bright door.
Throughout history, survivors of catastrophe, those who recover and thrive, are bound together by the unifying thread of hope. Through that lens, we see light at the end of the darkness and have the courage to live on. Perspective is, quite literally, the difference between Heaven and Hell.
But what if the rabbit hole goes deeper? What if, at the end of our lives, The Divine is not our judge and jury, but it is our own, tangled human minds that save or damn our soul? If we live in the perpetual darkness of bitterness, anger, and despair, will we be able to see a hereafter wrapped in beauty and light – denied entry not as a punishment, but as a simple fact of life? Like a cave-dwelling fish who has evolved without eyes, if we fail to see the light of The Divine in life, how will we find it after death? I wonder – and I hope. The choice, I believe, is ours and ours alone: Will we choose to walk in darkness or will we step forward, through the stable door, into the light?