20 October 2011
the great divorce 6
"What are we born for?"
As the narrator moves from observing yet another scene with another of the Ghosts he begins to ponder the very existence of this place. He admits that he has not yet considered the intentions of the Solid People, and now must consider whether or not there are ulterior motives to their apparent friendliness. He recalls various scenes of mythology, and even imagery from Revelation, regarding the terrible fates of those who were given eternal punishment. Thus he begins to wonder if this is nothing more than the same.
He speaks of Tantalas, a story derived from Greek mythology, which is a clever indication that he now is considering his visit nothing more than a temptation without satisfaction. The story of Tantalas (which is not included in Lewis' work here) speaks of his invitation to dine at the table of Zeus. There he stole nectar to bring back to the people and therefore reveal the secrets of the gods. Further, he takes his own son, boils him and offers him to the gods at a banquet. For this heinous act he is punished by being bound in a pool of water beneath tree branches with fruit. Whenever he would try to take a bite of fruit, the branches would raise beyond his reach. Likewise, when he would bend to take a drink of water the pool would recede before he could do so. The notion of tantalize come from this myth.
As the narrator considers these images in his mind he begins to see the Solid World in a different way: it becomes more sinister to him than it had previously been. Here is an outcome of the fallenness of creation - what is good and pure is now either questioned or marred in our relationship to it. At this point he sees another Ghost who is (making an attempt) to run and hide from another one of the Solid People.
The Ghost is trying to get away from the Solid Person and the conversation in which they had been engaged. There is the (now common) plea to come toward the mountains and join this world, and it seems that the desire is indeed present in the Ghost, though not enough to overcome her own obstacles. She is held up by her current state of being, "Do you really suppose I'm going out there among all those people, like this?" Her concern is that everyone will be able to see through her (because of her being one of the ghosts), and her pride will not allow her to move forward.
The Solid Person continues to plead with her, "But we were all a bit ghostly when we first arrived, you know. That'll wear off. Just come out and try." This leads the Ghost a little further, but she is still in a desperate state of affairs because of her present reality. She eventually replies, "I wish I'd never been born . . . What are we born for?"
Despite all of this the Solid Person continues in her effort to persuade the Ghost to come and try to walk to the mountains. For a moment it appears that the Ghost has come around and will indeed make the hard and long walk. Suddenly, however, she recants and refuses to move. The final effort given by the Solid Person was given, "Friend . . . Could you, only for a moment, fix your mind on something not yourself?"
This scene certainly highlights the current state of many people who are bound up by their own pride and circumstance. Truly, the walk of faith is one which opens us up that those who watch us will definitely be able to see through us. That is why it is necessary to have our eyes fixed on Christ for such a journey. The Solid Person never denies that everyone will see through the Ghost, and likewise there is no denying that the believer will not be exposed on many levels for such a commitment. But, just like the walk to the mountains makes one more solid and whole, those who walk in faith will lose the transparency of hypocrisy, guilt, and sin, to become a solid representation of Christ into the world.
Here we see another barrier to the human heart from engaging the process of sanctification. Our own pride keeps us focused on ourselves rather than on the goal - which contains the reason for life itself. Further, not only do we harm ourselves but we lose our witness when we do nothing but hide our spiritual nakedness in the bushes.