Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Narnia - a rereading

Narnia is a very powerful and moving allegory. Unfortunately, most commentators, not being trained in the skill of close reading, are unable to divine the true meaning of the allegory. [NB: I will not care about the nuances of Turkish delight as written about in the book, but will confine myself to the limitations of the medium from which most readers, myself included, will be most familiar with the source material.]


Reality and delusion

First and foremost, one has to remember that Narnia was purely in the realm of imagination.

Nothing that happened in Narnia affected the real (outside) world. Time spent in Narnia did not pass in the real world. And those who visited Narnia were unchanged physically; even after spending what must have been 2 decades in Narnia, the children emerged into the real world as they left it - clear proof that it was all in the children's minds (since that's the only thing in the real world which changed).

So even if you are bored, unfulfilled and unloved in the real world, there is no use retreating into a fantasy one of make-believe, since that is just self-indulgent imaginal masturbation (or any other type, if you like) in a vacuum; no matter how happy you might be, it's all a lie. Sinking into delusion could even lead to unnecessary grief (think of what would have happened if Aslan and friends had not been triumphant).

Be that as it may, we can still draw many morals from the children's foray into Narnia, even if it were fictional even in the context of the story.


False trichotomies

The Professor commented to Susan that if Lucy was not lying or crazy (about her visit to Narnia), she must have been telling the truth. Unmentioned is the possibility that she is mistaken - perhaps she bumped her head in the wardrobe, or maybe it had been too long since the thing was claned out, and she breathed in spores from hallucinogenic mushrooms*. Of course, the depiction of the Professor commiting such a glaring logical fallacy is meant to be a commentary on how having a PhD and being a Professor doesn't necessarily mean you're smart, since you can still fall afoul of basic logic.


Moral issues with betrayal

Edmund betrayed his siblings, but this betrayal came about because he was bullied and mistreated by the rest - they have themselves to blame for inciting the betrayal. Furthermore, those who are the agents of salvation are capable of mistreating even their kind: what more their lessers? Also, one might consider that without his betrayal, there would have been no victory in the end: therefore to imbue his treachery with moral undertones is most unfair**.


Free will

The Pevensie siblings feature in a prophecy, and despite their initial reluctance to fulfill it, they are swept along by the river of fate in the end and play out their preordained roles. This shows that there is no room for free will when supernatural are at work, human agency is helpless, and makes one wonder how much they deserve the accolades poured onto them. For example, if the siblings had numbered three, no matter how brave, noble and good they were, they would not have been able to prevail, for by definition the Prophecy must be fulfilled (or it would be a false one, surely one of many, but then that's another issue).


Semi-deification of Aslan

All the (good) characters have an unthinking, almost sheep-like regard for Aslan, looking up to him all the time and generally fawning over him. However, no one asks why he left the land of Narnia in the first place - if he hadn't left, the land and its inhabitants would not have suffered so greatly (and for a long 100 years) in the first place. In the intervening time, Aslan must have been hibernating, chuckling in his sleep about how the inhabitants of Narnia were suffering so and daily growing more eager for his return. At the end of the movie he is also shown walking off into the sunset, and he has obviously done that before - he is not a very reliable lion, not always being there for his people and disappearing often according to his whims.

Much is made of Aslan's sacrifice, but as is obvious from the story, it's not much of a sacrifice if one dies, only to be resurrected after half a night (and knowing that one will be resurrected to boot, resulting in one having no fear of death). Furthermore, Aslan was present when the "great magic" - the underlying magical laws of the land (or some shit like that) - were written. Presumably he had some say in their formulation. So why is it portrayed as tragic when he has to be sacrificed in accordance with these same laws that he had a hand in formulating? I can sympathise with how Aslan felt when he was shaved, though - why, just the other night (or thereabouts) I had a nightmare about the same happening to me.

History is written by the winners. If the White Witch and her minions had won, the story would read very differently, and a diametrical spin would be put on Aslan. For example, the treacherous scum violated the spirit, even if not the letter, of his agreement with the White Witch (then again, he did do that, even with a neutral reading of events).


Primacy of human agency

Although Aslan is glorified and raised to the status of a demi-god, in the end it is through the pivotal actions of humans that Narnia is saved, and they are all crowned Kings and Queens, ranking above him. The story is truly a glorification of the power of humans to change their environment and the seminal role they play in the great events of our time - even if you are a talking lion who can resurrect yourself, who cares? Without the humans you'd achieve nothing.


Conclusion

CS Lewis has been radically misread for decades. Luckily I've unearthed just how naughty he was (then again, see the previous post).


Endnotes:

* - Luckily there was a direct chain of transmission. If Lucy had told Edmund, who told Susan who told Peter, her original story (perhaps having dreamt of entering Narnia) could have been distorted, as anyone who's played the game "Broken Telephone" would know. Alternatively, Lucy could have said that her friend 'Bob' had been to Narnia and told her about it - in this case 'Bob' could neither have been telling the truth, nor lying nor mad, since he wouldn't have existed in the first place.

** - Some might argue that without Edmund's betrayal, victory could still have come, and at a lower price to boot. To fully address this objection, a dissertation on battle tactics and teleology (was what happened the only possible way it could have happened?) would be needed.

Also:

i) I liked the sneaky commentary about global warming and its perils (the melting river and how the children almost died). The Bush administration must be wroth.

ii) If you are ugly, you must be evil. If you look noble, you must be good. Excellent message to take home.

14 Comments:

Anonymous YO said...

Just to add another dimension to your re-reading of Narnia:

This is from my pastor. He said that CS Lewis is a x'tian who was well versed in the rights & inheritances of believers in Christ.

Ref:--

Rev 5:9 ... For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we F41 shall reign on the earth."


1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; ..

Sunday, January 08, 2006 7:47:00 PM  
Blogger sheLzi said...

CS Lewis has been radically misread for decades.

That might be true. Or it could just be that you're the one that's misreading him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger emiriyoshikawa said...

Well, if you read the whole series... which you shouldn't, or you'll spit at CS Lewis.

The professor was the boy who witness the creation of NarMa by Aslan. Aslan is a Muslim name by the way.

The prof bulid the wardrobe from the apple tree as the gate way to Narma.

He's smart and evil... con the siblings into fullfilling the prophecy. Gods know how many others poor kids he send to their grave before that.

You're wrong to say that Aslan was a lieing bastard. He simply trick the witch. It's not consider as a lie as long as you won the battle...

And he have to leave them coz if he stays any longer, he'll start eating everyone..

That's C.S.Lewis's sick joke about the creator. It's a MONSTER!

In the last book, Aslan destory Narma... coz it was but a dream.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 5:13:00 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

Uhh.

Not quite, but close enough.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 6:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psalm 14:1

Thursday, February 02, 2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

Matthew 5:22

Friday, February 03, 2006 12:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proverbs 18:2
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but dellights in airing his own opinions

Friday, February 03, 2006 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i tell a cockroach to stop being a cockroach and it goes away sad, it is not a cockroach but if i spoke to the air, stop being a cockroach and a butterfly was offended. That butterfly is truly a cockroach.

Friday, February 03, 2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

anonymous 10:02:27 AM:
1 Corinthians 13:11

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."


anonymous 10:42:03 AM:
???

Friday, February 03, 2006 4:13:00 PM  
Anonymous wei said...

hah.. this is interesting... you've accused Christians or so caled Christians before of misinterpreting the bible and using it to their own benefit in the form of organized religion but now here's a blatant example of an INTENTIONAL misinterpretation and misleading of a story used to promote your atehistic agenda or ideology!

It's just ripping the CS Lewis thingy out of context and conveniently imposing your own already existing biases.

And no you cant treat your commentary as a practical criticism of the story like how they teaxh in JC. BECAUSE the intention of Lewis word was explicit. He did not allow it to be open to any other interpretation and definitely not yours which is against the character of God that he intended to portray.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous wei said...

JEFF! Where are you?! I know you put in the preamble that this blog includes a wide range of people including atheists, non-christians and apostates,.etc.. but hey!!

this blog is destroying more faith than really addressing people's real concerns and issues that they have with God! Gabriel's not interested in finding or promoting the truth about God! How are you as a Christian- a person that is not satisfied with the powerless forms of hypocritical organized religion which have a form of godliness devoid of the Holy Spirit's power, a person that will not settle for the relative truth of a god constructed by men's opinions, and ultimately a life saved by grace through faith in the blood of our Lord Jesus!, going to respond to a person who sets Himself against the knowledge of the Most High Living God?!

The whole world is watching through the net. Through the people that visit this site. Why are you not contending for the faith? Yes there must be grace but to those who truly seek and are searching for our God.

This blog is unequally yoked. The truth of the gospel is not subjective to any man's interpretation! It is the Holy Spirit that reveals to each person and the same Spirit that refines the misconseptions of that person leading Him to the truth.

The Holy Spirit is not just some feeling that a person 'feel'. He is living! IF 2 people have an interpretation and they CLAIM that it's from God, and they contradict each other, then either one of them is false or both are false! Their messages or people's confused opinions of their message does not mean that the Holy Spirit is something that is subjective to man.

Why so called Christians or Christians have been disappointed is because they have fixed their eyes and put their confidence in man! They do not have a living personal relationship with Christ and rely on their man-made organizations to bring them or make them 'feel' closer to God! And if i could put in in a crude term,- spiritually masturbating themselves! making themselves think and deceiving themselves to think that they are having something of God when they dont! and God is sick of Christians who disgustingly sing loves songs to Him but secretly have their own agendas in their secret hearts!
And so God uses scandals and disappointments to wake up their idea, to show them that their faith is misplaced. To show them that they have put up false gods in their lives that have His name only but actually have idol agendas!
The Most High God is not an idol that he should honour any man's sensitive pride! He will hurt the pride of the Christian who claims to know Him soo much til that Christian acknowledges that God's thought are not as a man's thoughts and His ways are not man's ways.

And wait! This is not some mysterious justification of some hocus pocus mysterious 'God's' way. It is explicit in God's word that the way to love Him is to obey his commands. Many 'Christians' are disappointed because they want to have that name of a Christian thinking that this will ensure heaven and at the same time love themselves and honour their own desires. God WILL disappoint such 'Christians' and expose the fallacy of such a faith. He does this so that their hearts can be laid bare and so they will forsake that false faith turn and search after him . He cannot be mocked! But then many want the easy way out. They will go to another 'church' and see if that church can spiritually masturbate them again. These Christians worship and only exalt themselves and are mocking and insulting the wisdom of the One they profess to worship. He cannot be mocked! He will judge this falseness on that day at the end of the age!

As for Gabriel, this is the judgment that the Word of God has made on him- the gospel is foolishness to those that are perishing! You find it foolishness because you are perishing! You once knew what was guilt and shame. Guilt and shame that is not brought about by the social constructions of men's cultures, but guilt and shame that comes out of the secret things that you do when you're by yourself. You chose to justify your sins rather than repent from it. Your conscience has been seared and you are a law to yourself.
Your arguments are from an arrogant heart that rages against the Lord. You have rejected the Lord and so His hand will be against you. You're no atheist. You know there is a God but you reject his laws and shift it to the fascade and realm of human arguments that is shifty and subjective because you want to gratify the pleasures of your flesh.
And yet even after this, your heart will not repent but will be hardened even more. Turn away before it's too late! When you challenge the Almighty God, He will surely not let your taunts pass by without crushing you.

Jeff! Do not love the wisdom and knowledge of this world! It is foolishness in God's eyes. Pursue righteousness, godliness and true faith! Because God's kingdom is not a matter of arguments and human opinions but of power, righteousness and holiness.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger jeffyen said...

I'm here! :) The reason why I haven't commented on this entry is because I haven't read Narnia before. My only exposure to it was a radio dramatisation on the BBC World Service many years ago, and I've long forgotten the story. So, I've no idea what you folks are discussing here! Anyway, thanks for your long comment.

As for the feeling that I'm not 'contending' for the faith, that hasn't really crossed my mind. In fact, if you read some of my previous entries, I'd have probably 'destroyed' a lot of people's 'faith'. It is highly possible that it is indeed happening. So, what gives?

Maybe it's due to one of the aims of this blog: to let us examine our beliefs, and if there seems to be something that's not really correct, continue searching for the truth. This will result in the previous faith being corrected, or even 'destroyed'. (So maybe this is the way I try to 'contend' for the faith.)

For e.g., what I think about the 'model of salvation' a few entries back. This is serious stuff, and is highly heretical; I don't deny it. It will shake the very foundations of the reader's faith if he or she has understood the concept as it's usually taught. Whether the reader agrees with my assessment or not, it's still quite a challenging POV, I think...

Thursday, February 09, 2006 9:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit drama-mama to me. Joyce, are you reading this? Modern christians are so disappointing. Not like the ones who got flayed alive in about AD 40.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 2:39:00 PM  
Blogger quirK said...

Anon, that's 'cos you're living in Singapore.

Paul didn't go to Athens and then perform miracles or crucify himself, he had to match the intellectuals braincell for braincell. He admitted he largely failed, with a few conversions (I would consider even ONE conversion a success, but I know some of you think he downright sucked).

Or maybe, just maybe, the intellectuals were so clouded in their superior IQs that Paul was deemed to have lost the theological debates even before he started?

In Singapore the christians do heir part by contributing their intelligence to the rebuttal of arguments in blogs such as this. In provinces like Sulawesi you get missionaries who spread the Gospel and hope that the town doesn't get stormed overnight.

Lastly, martyrdom or intellectual debates don't do a thing unless they are executed in accordance with God's will. In this regard, prayer is a vastly underestimated weapon of mass redemption.

Monday, June 19, 2006 5:05:00 AM  

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