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Friday, January 30, 2009

The End

I just finished reading to my children "The Last Battle," by C.S. Lewis. It is the last book in the Narnia series, one of my all time favorite set of books ever. I've read this book several times, and finished reading it this time several hours ago. I'm still a blubbering mess.

What is it about endings that tear us up inside? This book is not only the end of the series, but is the end of Narnia as we grow to know it. It is the darkest and saddest of all the Narnia books. I cried many times while reading it to my children.

Endings are a part of this world. They are inevitable. Everything ends given time. Jobs. Beauty. Great stories. Great sex. Marriages. Lives.

There is a Buddhist story about a great King who struggled with depression and anxiety. He called upon a very famous wise man to help him resolve this difficulty. The King offered him anything he desired if only a cure could be found. The wise man said "Even your entire kingdom would not be enough, so I shall do it as a gift." The next day the wise man came back with a very finely carved box of jade. In it was a golden ring inscribed with the words "This too shall pass." "What is this?" the King asked. "Whenever you feel anxious or depressed, look at this ring and remember that this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever." The King thought for a moment and asked, "But what about joyful moments? How will this bring me comfort during those times?" The wise man replied "Those too shall pass. It is only in knowing this that you can achieve happiness in all circumstances."

This too shall pass.

Everything ends except what really matters. Our souls, our connection to the Divine. What ends isn't really real anyways. What is truly Real lasts forever. Like Aslan's country. The Real Narnia. The Real London. He refers to Plato's idea of reality. This is all a shadow, a copy of the Real thing. The True thing. We live in the Shadowlands.

But as I look around my world, it seems so real. The illusion is so convincing. I attach myself to this illusion and find pain and despair at the end of it. For no illusion can last. I despair over the seeming endlessness of despair and grasp firmly to the moment of joy, only to have those torn from my hands.

Eventually the sun will set for the last time and will never rise again. But it wasn't real. The friends of Narnia realized this. They saw that they loved Narnia only because it reminded them ever so slightly of the Real Narnia. Of Aslan's country. It wasn't Narnia they loved, but what it represented, though they didn't understand it at the time.

Now I don't necessarily agree with C.S. Lewis on all theological points, but he is a damn good writer. And he has a point about this. Am I perhaps so attached to the relationships I form in this life because of the ever-so-faint resemblance they might have to my connection to the Divine? Do I cling to this world in blindness because the brightness of Truth is too much for me to see?

When I was reading this book to my children, it was real and alive for us. We were drawn in and emotionally involved in the story and its outcome. (Obviously, if I'm still shedding tears over Jewel the Unicorn's death!) It's the willing suspension of disbelief...which is necessary for the success of any story, movie, book or play ever written.

However, I think we employ the same level of suspended disbelief in our "real" worlds. Because we then place our happiness, our joy and our future in the hands of these temporary and fleeting "realities." But, if we look closely, we just might find that this too is a story we are telling ourselves, and that the reality of Truth is so much greater and more glorious than our piddly imaginings have lead us to believe.

So, when we get to the end of something we hold dear, we might want to ask ourselves what we have lost. Have we really lost anything? Or do we just have an opportunity to remember what is Real? To remember that our connection to the Divine cannot be severed, and all else is silly nonsense.

The End....or maybe, The Beginning?

1 comment:

  1. I totally balled when I read the Last Battle. But I actually found it beautiful and comforting the way Lewis explained about how Narnia existed. Out of all the books in the Chronicles of Narnia, this one was the one where the allegory was completely obvious. I loved it!