Illustration by Pauline Baynes for the cover of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis
Last night I had multiple tabs open across the computer screen, a to-do list from Hades and the mind set to accomplish it all. Instead, I spent hours talking to a friend and to my son.
As parents we do our best for our children. We try to give them the strongest grounding we can in all the things that matter to us, be that manners or morals, education or faith. It doesn’t matter where we are, what social standing we have or lack, it is just what we do. We love them. What else could we do? The same thing applies to teachers. It is often said that the greatest joy of any teacher is when they see the student surpass them. In that there is very little difference between the two roles.
My own upbringing was eclectic and I was encouraged to seek answers for myself. I tried to pass that along to my children. The results were both surprising and amusing, like the fun and games we had at primary school, when my very young son decided God must be a ‘she’… and later, a ‘he-she’. The one thing I never wanted to do was give my sons all the answers and ask them to swallow them like a pill. After all, I don’t have all the answers, and the ones I do have may, in all fairness, be wrong. They work for me and give me a philosophy and faith that guides me. That, I think, is all one can ever truly claim.
But if I couldn’t and wouldn’t give them the answers, I could, perhaps, point them in the direction of the questions. And answer the ones they asked from as many alternative viewpoints as I could, giving them the freedom to follow their own hearts, while I shared with them what was in mine.
The dramatic events that touched our family a few years ago threw up many such questions and at the time, the only place we could find the answers was within. I could say faith is a purely subjective thing, but I don’t believe that to be true. I think that at times like these when we reach ‘further up and further in’, as C.S.Lewis put it in ‘The Last Battle’ we can find Something… call it what you will… that reaches out also to us.
Part of last night’s conversation centred around Divinity. Does it matter what Name you put to your idea of that Force of sheer Being or the symbol or mind picture you use for yourself in the silence of the heart? This was one of the questions asked. Personally, I don’t think so. What matters most is the intent behind the way you choose to live.
Tash, illustration by Pauline Baynes
I was reminded of a favourite passage from Lewis’s Narnia books, where the young Calormene, Emeth, who has worshipped Tash all his life comes face to face with Aslan. The Lion seems to the young man to be all that his heart has ever sought, yet he has been true to his own god. He is welcomed by Aslan, but admits his devotion to Tash to the Lion. The Lion explains that all good that is done is taken as service to Him, no matter what the name used. Even as a small child that passage stuck. As did the final part of that encounter. Emeth tells the tale of his encounter with Aslan to those who find him beside the way:
“…Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”
And that, I think, is true. We will find what we seek…in faith, in love and friendship… in all aspects of life, if we pursue it with the passion of a whole heart.
It occurred to me then, speaking of Aslan, that the Lion was perhaps the earliest point in my life where I felt Love, both for and from Divinity, even though, being so very young, I did not understand it as such at the time. It wasn’t difficult to simply feel it back then.
Of course, we grow up. We go through the questioning times of adolescence and into adulthood and the simplicity of childhood can be lost under the weight of responsibility, the constraints of everyday life and the active intellect. Listening on the phone last night, answering from the heart, as we discussed the meaning of life, I realised something I had barely noticed creeping up on me.
Having spent decades seeking understanding down many strange pathways and ponderings, devouring books and tying my mind in knots with abstract thought, I had eventually come to realise that what I sought outside was already there, ‘inside’. There was no separation, no distance, no need to reach outward. Only to look ‘further up and further in‘. Only to Be.
I had come full circle… or perhaps back to the same place I was as a child, only on a different level of a spiral of understanding. But it is just as clean and simple after all.
C.S.Lewis wrote in ‘Prince Caspian’:
““Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.”
And it is still Love.