05 September 2011
the great divorce 4
The narrator has been walking, quite carefully, upon the river, having taken some practice at navigating it. Once he climbs upon the shore and begins to walk toward the sound of "an immense yet lovely noise" which shook through the forest. He discovers that this is a rather large waterfall. It is a beautifully described sight, and the narrator sees that this is more than he has ever experienced while on earth. This was something more real than anything else he has seen or heard.
At the center of this scene stands a tree, full and large and ripe with golden apples. He sees that crouching beneath one of the surrounding trees is another of the Ghosts, motioning to keep the narrator away. While trying to discern the situation, the narrator does not move but watches what will happen next.
The Ghost could not move very quickly, for the pain of the grass and the flowers surrounding the tree were too much. His efforts, however, eventually brought him under the great tree. Each attempt at maneuver brought pain to the Ghost, for this world was far too solid for his present state. At one point a wind blows through the tree, knocking off some of the apples. The falling fruit lands on the Ghost and knocks him down for a few moments. His efforts continue - he is trying to take an apple with him, slowly and surely.
A voice from the waterfall speaks to him, "Fool . . . put it down. You cannot take it back. There is not room for it in Hell. Stay here and lean to eat such apples. The very leaves and the blades of grass in the wood will delight to teach you."
At the center of this chapter is a discussion of the Real, how this world and that world are quite different from each other. Further, it speaks of the incompatibility of the two. In some ways this might be seen as a return to the Garden of Eden, now seen as the apple's revenge. What humanity has done to disrupt the nature of God's created reality now exacts its retribution.
More seriously, though, is the notion of holiness as otherness. Pictures of the heavenly realm are consistently portrayed in Scripture as something other. It is an existence which is not far from our own, but which is comprised of something completely different than ourselves. We are often left with more questions than answers when we see the thin line of separation between heaven and earth breached, and The Bible does little to help us understand it. We are simply left with the notion that it is other.
If this is not to be seen as an epistemological reality, then it is at minimum a moral one. One cannot rightly claim the physical distance between heaven and earth, for there is no specific geography of heaven that does not intersect with earth. It is God's existence, and thus is another reality. And it is invading earth with each moment. What the apple then speaks to here is an existence in which God's reality is no longer able to go. Hell.
The apple does not go into Hell the same way in which God's holiness is not presently shown. The reality of God's holiness can transform those who come and embrace it, but will destroy those who do not. Whenever holiness and unholiness come into contact, it is holiness which destroys unholiness. In the narrative of grey town this time has not yet come, though it is approaching with the imminent nightfall.
labels: review: The Great Divorce