Till We Have Faces

I said last month that I wanted to cuddle up with some C.S. Lewis during December, and I did. Thanks to my your recommendations (Jennifer, Rustin and I can’t remember who else), I chose Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold — Lewis’ “ultimate” novel.  (And Catherine, the space triology is next!)

I don’t tend to pick up fiction (not sure why), but I am sure glad I did.  As the snow started to fall here in the Midwest, the nights grew very long and dark and our imaginations turned toward Christmas stories like the original nativity and so many more, it was good to fall into a story from far, far away and long, long ago.

I’ll try not to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but in essence, Till We Have Faces is an imaginative retelling of the timeless story of Cupid and Psyche.  Now I didn’t know much about Cupid other than him being a big chubby baby that flings love-arrows at unsuspecting singles, but it turns out there’s more to the ancient Greek myth than that.

What’s interesting is that when Lewis heard the story of Cupid and Psyche as an undergraduate (perhaps still a teenager), there was one piece of it that didn’t make sense to him.  In the legend, when Psyche (born a mortal) is off living in a magnificent palace with her new husband, the god Cupid, it goes that her sisters were jealous of her and plotted to make her do something that would ruin her life.  Psyche did what they provoked her to do, and it did indeed ruin her happiness.

But Lewis never accepted that telling of the story.  Though just a simple detail, Lewis felt that surely the sisters could not see the divine magnificent palace.  They weren’t jealous; they simply didn’t have eyes to see the dwelling of the god Cupid.

Let me put it one other way.  When Lewis started thinking about this story as a teenager, he approached it from the angle that the humans were in the right (their doubts were well-justified) and the gods were wrong.  It wasn’t fair!  It wasn’t that they were jealous of their sister; they simply couldn’t see her new palace and concluded that she must be mentally unstable.  She must be living in a make-believe world and they had to end it for her own safety.

But as anyone who knows Lewis knows, the author of this book wasn’t the same person a teenager that he was later in life.  At the age of 32, C.S. Lewis had a profound conversion experience.  He reoriented his life away from doubt and instead, embraced Jesus Christ.  He became a Christian.

My favorite part of the book is, of course, the end.  Well now I am really spoiling it for people who haven’t read it.  Dang it, stop reading this blog now and go get the book!

Anyway, the end is satisfying and not.  I’m curious what someone whose heart isn’t open to God would think of it.  After hundreds of pages of the narrator making her firm case against the gods, she finally gets her answer in the end.  Of course, it’s not the answer(s) she expected.

It reminds me of something that Os Guinness is famous for saying to confused college graduates wondering what to do with their lives: “We are not called to something; we are called to Someone.”

Somehow, that is all the answer we need in life.

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A new blog, an epic topic

I like making lists.  Do you like making lists?  “To do” lists are the most common, as well as “to buy” lists to remind me what to pick up at the store.

But have you ever made one of those lists where you write down everything you are thankful for?  A gratitude list.  For me, it always starts with Tom, my family, a place to call home, good food to eat, the love of God (who is Love), our dog, and eventually gets to the more trivial… “brightly colored post-it notes…” and “10 more minutes on snooze.” lol Or similarly, maybe you’ve made a list of things that make you happy.  These lists are fun to make.

Well in some ways, I see my new blog as an ongoing discovery and celebration of these best things in life… things that constitute The Good Life, at least for me.  Sometimes a recognition of the little joys in life.  And sometimes, on a deeper level, an intimate, introspective look at the things that truly matter.  …if there even is a distinction between those two (we will see).

I realize this phrase “the good life” has as many meanings as interpreters.  For many people, “the good life” means forsaking busy civilization and learning to live peacefully and self-sufficiently in nature.  For others, it means acquiring the most luxurious goods this world has to offer and never needing to worry wear your next dollar will come from (quite the opposite!).  For me, it means something else entirely.  It’s a way of life that I am beginning to think about and define in this 27th year.  And well, I’m just bold enough to think the entire inter-cyber-net-universe needs to get this inside scoop!

I think an incredibly fascinating place to start with this search, as with all searches, is Wikipedia.  This site holds all the answers, if you didn’t know.  But since it’s community-edited, it’s always interesting to see what has been said and what’s been left out.  “The Good Life” entry is fascinating for this reason.  It’s relatively short for such an immense topic.  Why is it that this is all that’s been written about the ultimate experience of human existence?

THE GOOD LIFE

The good life is a term for the life that one would like to live, or for happiness, associated (as eudaimonia) with the work of Aristotle and his teaching on ethics.

RELIGIOUS APPROACHES

There has been a pattern in the life of the Christian Church of monasticism or ascetism, wherein members of the body of Christ separated themselves to be consecrated to a more contemplative lifestyle, or decided to live in voluntary poverty in order to better meet the needs of the world.

Recent developments in this field have been made by what some call the new monasticism. Young men and women, both monogamous married couples and celibate singles, share their homes and lives, usually in the inner city as a means and method of growing in their faith and ministering to the marginalized and hurting people surrounding them.

NON-RELIGIOUS APPROACHES

There have been many instances throughout history, especially American history, of individuals or groups of individuals attempting to return to a simpler state of existence, or, as Henry David Thoreau said, “to front the essential facts of life”. Thoreau wrote his influential memoir Walden about his personal experience with simple living. A century later, Helen and Scott Nearing published a series of books on “the good life” detailing their alternative lifestyle.

SEE ALSO

* Eudaimonia
* La dolce vita (The Sweet Life) – Federico Fellini’s 1960 film may be seen as an antonym of ‘the good life’ concept
* Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

REFERENCES

* Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World by Jonathan R. Wilson
* The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing
* Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
* School(s) for Conversion edited by Rutba House
* The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claibourne
* Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider
* Walden by Henry David Thoreau
* The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

…Back to me now.

So that’s a very interesting look at what is meant by “The Good Life.”  I will be reading some of these books and other materials and digging deeper as part of this blog.

But I also have my own ideas of what needs to be on the “official” entry.

Stay tuned…