Reading with Joy - Daisies Hard as Diamonds
This week we read chapters two, three, and four.
(next week we'll read chapter five)
And don't worry... you're not too late to join! Just catch up on the podcasts, and dive on in!
This is an overview of what we talked about.
This week we mainly talked about one thing...
The Hardness of heaven:
Why is heaven hard? Well, the question really ought to be why are the ghosts whispy. Consider this passage:
I gasped when I saw them. Now that they were in the light, they were transparent-fully transparent when they stood between me and it, smudgy and imperfectly opaque when they stood in the shadow of some tree. They were in fact ghosts: man-shaped stains on the brightness of that air. One could attend to them or ignore them at will as you do with the dirt on a window pane. I noticed that the grass did not bend under their feet: even the dew drops were not disturbed. Then some re-adjustment of the mind or some focussing of my eyes took place, and I saw the whole phenomenon the other way round. The men were as they always had been; as all the men I had known had been perhaps. It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.
- Great Divorce, Chapter Three.
The ghosts have been diminished by Self-Choice.
This is based on Augustine of Hippo's idea of Self-Love versus God-Love.
Augustine held that sin occurs when we use our natural capacity of desire poorly. He holds that desire is supposed to draw us out of ourselves and toward reality—toward the natural world, toward enjoyment of material goods, and toward love of others. All of these, when we love them in God, make us more real, and that they are all ultimately actions of loving God.
Sin, for Augustine, is when, instead of enjoying the thing itself as it is constituted in God, we begin to love the feelings it stirs up within us. Think of it this way: if I love my brother because he fixes my computer, or because he compliments me, I am not really loving my brother, I am loving myself; I am loving the feelings my brother stirs up in me. This is self-love.
So, for Augustine, sin is turning away from reality and pointing our desires inward at ourselves. When we do this we literally lose touch with reality, and our own being is diminished because we are no longer moving toward reality, but moving inward.
Lewis imagines this literally with the hardness of heaven. All of the ghosts are so self-involved that they have become less and less in touch with reality. So, in comparison to the pulsating, beautiful, reality of heaven, they are whispy. Or, as one of my favourite lines describes them "Man shaped stains on the brightness of that air."
This has interesting philosophical implications, but it also has very practical personal implications: Do I love people for who they are? Or do I love them for what they produce in me?
But heaven is hard in another way too.
People don't seem to want to stay in heaven.
This is demonstrated in the story of the Big Man, or, rather the Big Ghost. He is met by the bright spirit of a man who was his employee in life. In his life, this Spirit murdered someone, but later came to repent his actions. He is pictures as a sort of modern day thief on the cross that repents at the last moment. This bothers the Big Ghost. He is shocked to discover this spirit reached heaven before he did. He says, "If they choose to let in a bloody murderer all because he makes a poor mouth at the last moment, that's their lookout. But I don't see myself going in the same boat with you, see?" the Big Ghost has constructed a reality in his mind: he is good and decent and he deserves to be in heaven. But, of course, this isn't true: he is imperfect, unforgiving, hateful. I love this beautifully simple line from the Spirit:
"You weren't a decent man and you didn't do your best. We none of us were and we none of us did. Lord bless you, it doesn't matter. There is no need to go into it all now."
The Spirit wants the Ghost to embrace reality and be saved. The issue is that the Big Ghost insists on remaining in his own view of reality. He has turned inward, to a world of his own making.
The Big Ghost cannot be forgiven because he does not think he needs to be forgiven.
His story ends tragically, as he limps back to the bus, happier to live in his own fantasy rather than the hard, but good, reality of heaven.
We begin to worry: can anyone stay in heaven?
I guess you'll just have to tune in next week to find out. :-)
This week we'll read chapter 5.
I've flip flopped on how many chapters to do, but this week is full of content, so we'll just stick with one. I'll have the podcast out on Wednesday.
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Oh, and never forget: the podcast is on iTunes if that's easier for you!
What did you like? What confused you? What do you think? Chip in with your thoughts!
p.s. this post probably has grammatical mistakes because I'm in a hurry. Mercy, reader.