As you all know, I love C.S. Lewis. I value his thought patterns, his syntax and his insights into God more than anyone else. I trust Jack like I trust the moon to cycle. He is, without hesitancy, my constant.
My Mom has always recommended that I read “The Great Divorce” and I have read it before. But a couple of weeks ago I was feeling the need to read it again. So I bought the audiobook and listened to it on the way to work for a couple of days. Like I said, Jack is my Constant
So when I started listening and the opening lines of the preface began to immediately challenge the belief’s that I had held since I came out. I have been able to continue on living sanely because I believed that their is always a perfect solution. That, given time effort and great skill, a middle way, a perfect way can always be found. Lewis states that the attempt to marry Heaven and Hell (a perennial belief that motivated him to write this book) is:
“based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable ‘either-or’; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; … This belief I take to be a disastrous error. You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.
We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level, life is not like a river but like a tree.
This is probably what started my recent downward spiral. This is what made me so melancholy weeks ago leading me to end a friendship because I could no longer remain “just friends” with. This shook up my emotions and destabilized me. Largely because I have been saying for a while now that many of our decisions are not like forks in the road but rather like a boulder in the stream. If we go to the right we have one set of experiences, to the left another but ultimately we are still traveling down the same river. I have also often espoused my belief that all roads lead up the same mountain. And here is Jack, my constant, telling me “No, No, No, You are wrong”.
I had to look and see if my constant was wrong or if I was. This causes serious problems in my heart and mind. Tracing back my frustrations I remember reading Jack’s sentiment that “Sometimes the right step is to turn around” He expresses this again in the preface this way:
“It is still ‘either-or’. If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smalles and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him.”
Sometimes I wonder if my choices are right, and when I doubt them I imagine that I am just on one side of the boulder but still on course in the river. Listening to Jack tell me that I need to turn around and retrace my steps really took it out of me last week.
What turned me around out of my depressive state was, yet again, Jack.
“This is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasures they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and forth into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. …Both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. … And that is why, at the end of all things, … the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell”. And both will speak truly.”
Essentially, we have the power to choose, we have the agency to decide where to go and who to follow. Heaven or Hell? This fits perfectly within my mindset because Michael Wilcox (another hero) taught me that Agency isn’t the freedom to choose whatever we want but rather the decision of who to follow. I am able to see and know that I am choosing Christ, and in doing so I can see Heaven in everything. Heaven & Hell are retrospective and reach back into our past, and into our future. The only danger, as Jack states, is that while Good is everything and Heaven everywhere, we must avoid embracing the “false and disastrous converse that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.”