Reading with Joy - Chapters 6-9
Whew! What a wild few weeks its been. I'm a bit behind on shownotes because I was busy turning in a section of my Phd and travelling back to the states. But I'm home now, and catching up on emails, tasks, and show notes!
In this post I have links to each new podcast (there's three!) and show notes for each one.
Don't forget to join the discussion on twitter or facebook! Ask questions, make comments, and let me know what you think about the book!
Tweet me! Facebook me! Tell me what you think of the book.
Hard-Bitten and Bowled Over
In these chapters we see two ghosts with opposite problems. One ghost (the ghost in a bowler hat) sees the infinite value in heaven, but he thinks he can earn it. The other (the Hard- Bitten Ghost) knows he can't earn heaven, but doesn't believe it's worth it.
The Ghost in a Bowler Hat
The Ghost in the Bowler hat sees the infinite worth of heaven and is willing to do whatever it takes to earn it. Unlike the other ghosts who chafe and complain about the hardness of the grass, this ghost gives all that he has to get the tiniest golden apple. Look at this passage:
The amazing thing was that he succeeded. When I remembered what the leaf had felt like when I tried to lift it, I could hardly help admiring this unhappy creature when I saw him rise staggering to his feet actually holding the smallest of the apples in his hands. He was lame from his hurts, and the weight bent him double. Yet even so, inch bv inch, still availing himself of every scrap of cover, he set out on his via dolorosa to the bus, carrying his torture.
This ghost knows the value of heaven. But he doesn't know it's a gift. He thinks it's something you can buy and sell. Rather than embracing Jesus' grace, he attempts to walk his own via dolorosa (the way of the cross).
This ghost has to learn to accept heaven as God's generous gift of grace.
Grace is like the waterfall that gives life to the whole forest.
"Fool. Put it down," said a great voice suddenly. It was quite unlike any other voice I had heard so far. It was a thunderous yet liquid voice. With an appalling certainty I knew that the waterfall itself was speaking: and I saw now (though it did not cease to look like a waterfall) that it was also a bright angel who stood, like one crucified, against the rocks and poured himself perpetually down towards the forest with loud joy.
The bowler hatted ghost needs to go and be washed under the life-giving waterfall, and admit it can't attain heaven on its own.
The Hard-Bitten Ghost
The hard-bitten ghost can't seem to see any real value in anything. He is suspicious of everything, and believes nothing. In our day, he would be quick to shout "Fake news!" One could think that he is this way because he fears that if he hopes in anything, places value in anything, he will discover it is a scam and it will disappoint him. He is a cynic and cynicism is a form of despair.
One can't help but think here of all the people who lived through WWI and WWII. Could anyone blame them for their despair?
For the Hard-Bitten Ghost to be redeemed, he must allow himself to hope and to see the beauty and value of the high country.
Discussion question: which ghost do you identify with more? the hopeless cynic? Or the enterprising opportunist? Do you struggle with despair? or being works oriented in your faith? Both?
On Being Seen
Being seen and known is one of our deepest desires and our deepest fears. In this chapter we encounter a ghost who must overcome her shame to experience joy.
The biggest barrier to this ghost's entrance into heaven is her fear of being seen. Perhaps not just of being seen, but of being seen and being found inadequate, ugly, unloveable. It makes me think of the movie the Knight's Tale: "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting." But, the reality is that no one can attain heaven on their own. We are all created, contingent, crumbling. To heal, we must allow ourselves to be seen, and to acknowledge our need. It's like the Spirit says...
"An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don't you remember on earth-there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it-if you will drink the cup to the bottom-you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds."
Does this ghost move further into heaven? We're not sure, but we hope so.
Do you think the ghost moves further into heaven? What do you tend to hide? Your ignorance? your sin? your hurt?
All Who are In Hell Choose It
In this chapter we meet Lewis' Virgil: George MacDonald. The Scotch theologian and fairy tale spinner explains shows the central question of heaven and the book: choice.
MacDonald says there are ultimately only two kinds of choices: self-choice and joy-choice.
Does this seem limited? Perhaps. But what Lewis is describing here is what we discussed before: desire is meant to pull us through the world toward God, and when we misuse it, we end up not loving the world or God, but our own feelings about it. True freedom is the ability to choose rightly. Consider this quote by Thomas Merton.
"Free will is not given to us merely as a firework to be shot off into the air. There are some men who seem to think their acts are freer in proportion as they are without purpose, as if a rational purpose imposed some kind of limitation upon us. That is like saying that one is richer if her throws money out the window than if he spent it... It is for this that we account ourselves happy when we know HIs will and do it, and realize that the greatest unhappiness is to have no sense of his purposes or His designs either for ourselves or for the rest of the world."
- Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
We are truly free when we can use our wills well. We are free when we can choose Joy instead of choosing ourselves.
What do you think of that? Does that sound like freedom to you?
That's all for this week, friends! Remember you can always ask questions, make comments, and interact with others in the book club on Facebook and Twitter.