Friday, May 17, 2019

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

The story of The Great Divorce is deceptively simple. A group of strangers board a bus going to heaven and their various reactions to celestial realities show their true character. C.S. Lewis brilliantly imagines and describes what heaven might be like, but I have to confess that I sometimes found myself wondering, "What in the world is going on here?"

Although short, and not as theologically hefty as some of his apologetic books, The Great Divorce requires patient reading because of our limited human understanding of spiritual realities. Lewis does not pretend to know what heaven is really like, but he does his best to show that it is more real than anything we've ever experienced on earth. Since everything earthly is a shadow of things to come, he makes everything much heavier in Paradise. The little flower was hard, not like wood or even like iron, but like diamond

Standards of beauty and power are turned on their heads. (The first shall be last, etc.) A plain woman who lived a quiet selfless life on earth is practically a princess in heaven. When a man asks an angel if he'll be able to meet any famous artists, the angel replies that he's not sure he's seen any...

"But surely in the case of distinguished people, you'd know?
"But they aren't distinguished - no more than anyone else. Don't you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone like light and mirrors. But the Light's the thing." Nobody's famous in heaven and nobody cares because only One is worthy of praise.

The sensation that Lewis' character sees most often in the heavenly creatures is joy. They also are dwelling in love in a way that makes the human idea of being "in love" look infantile and anemic. In fact, Lewis shows several passengers from the bus whose love for others is purely selfish or lustful.

How to describe how achingly beautiful everything is? Lewis emphasizes that human senses can't take in all the glory, but will adapt to it as time goes by. He describes a group of singers: If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old.

A fascinating read!


1 comment:

Vintage Reading said...

I should read more Lewis. I've only ever read the Narnia books. I saw a fascinating documentary about his life which made me want to read more.