Elemental Surprise

I want this to be an alchemical post about the discovery of a new element. I consulted my main alchemist character about it, and he replied with raised eyebrows, and then a good laugh.

I suppose that writing is a sort of alchemy, though, and surprise is definitely one of its foundational elements.

Recently, I re-watched Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).  As a kid, I didn’t like it, but someone was talking about its music and so I decided to give it another try.

I was very surprised.

It would be easy to say that I didn’t understand it as a kid. That is certainly true, but I was 14 when it first came out. I was well-aware of the interplay of sex, violence, bigotry, and abuse (it is one of Disney’s darker animated films). I disliked the film because I thought it was trite and self-contradictory.

Now, I can see why 14-year-old Jubilare thought so, but I also think she simply missed the point. Getting back to surprise, there are a few ways this element manifests… perhaps it has a solid, liquid, and gaseous form? There are jump-scream surprises, surprising twists in plot and character, and then there are the surprises that come from delving into the layers of a work. I’m interested, here, in the last of these.

This film is thickly layered, with complex themes and little bonuses (like the Latin and Greek embedded in the soundtrack). Now, I rather like a lot of Disney’s animated canon, but the themes are generally straight forward. Perhaps that is why I originally misunderstood this film. I took it at face-value.

One thing that originally annoyed me with tHoND was the seemingly broken-Aesop (or family-unfriendly Aesop) of Quasimodo. The main point of the film seems to be that beauty and ugliness come from within, with Quasimodo and Frollo acting as foils (Frollo isn’t nice on the outside, either, probably because pretty villains gain sympathy points no matter how horrible they are within). My teenage self felt that this message was undermined when Quasimodo failed to get the girl.

It wasn’t that I wanted Esmeralda to end up with Quasimodo, or anyone. It was that the message seemed to be “no matter how nice you are on the inside, what is outside matters, too” which is sadly true, but also contrary to the apparent point of the film: “Who is the monster, and who is the man?” The answer seems to be that Frollo is a monster, but Quasimodo still looks like one, and he will suffer the consequences.

14-me did not think Disney would make a film that brutally honest. I thought, instead, that they decided the general public wouldn’t accept a non-handsome “prince” and so they added the sub-plot romance, and then glossed over the pain this causes Quasimodo by making him miraculously “ok” with it at the end.

Seeing it as an adult, I realize that there is a lot more going on. Frollo and Quasimodo are, once again, foils, but they are both foils for Phoebus.

At one extreme we have Frollo, who is filled with lust and hates/blames the object of his desire (yeah, dark). He sees her as an object of temptation and a source of evil. At the other end of the spectrum, Quasimodo calls her an outright angel. She is, perhaps, the first person, and definitely the first woman, to be kind to him. But the problem is that she is on a pedestal, and his love for her is worship.

Then there is Phoebus, who sits in the middle. He engages her as a person (even though he starts out as a terrible flirt). Given this dynamic, the romantic element made a lot more sense to me this time around. Though it is still possible to see the Aesop as broken, it is, perhaps, only tinted with more depth and reality than I had seen before. Quasimodo and Esmeralda would not work, not because of his physical appearance, but because of their personalities and because of how they view each other. The writers were dealing with a more complex theme, and different moral/life questions than 14-me thought.

I give the team who worked on this film high marks for this. Relationships that make sense haven’t always been a Disney strength.

Another depth that surprised me (and the only other one I will deal with, for now) was the villain. Disney cartoon villains, though I love ’em, are not a complicated lot. Frollo, however, stands apart. His “hidden depths” are quite nasty, and I do mean nasty. This is not going to be an “oh, poor villain with a freudian excuse!” rant, but rather an awed “holy cranberry catfish, look at the abyssal depths they carved into when they created this guy.”

In a cursory look around the internets I see that, of the Seven Deadly Sins, Frollo is most closely associated with lust. Not surprising, considering that his Villain Song mostly deals with his desire for (and hatred of) Esmeralda. Also, the surprise (ha!) and shock of seeing a Disney film for kids deal with the issue so directly makes it stand out.

But hang on a minute. As some others have pointed out, it should be clear from the very beginning that Frollo is a nasty piece of work. Watch the opening scene:

I don’t see any lust at work there, just bigotry and pride. Ah. There it is.

Now, listen to the first few lines in his villain song (and also notice that, again, Quasimodo and he are foils, Quasi’s humility and, sadly, self-loathing, manifest in worship of Esmeralda as an “angel” and Frollo’s pride manifests in blaming her for casting a spell over him. For, otherwise, how could such a “righteous” and “pure” man be so consumed with lust? *facepalm*):

“Beata Maria, you know I am a righteous man. Of my virtue I am justly proud. Beata Maria, you know I’m so much purer than the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd.”

This guy’s problems may end in uncontrolled lust and wrath, but they begin in what is, perhaps, the deadliest of sins: Pride.

Self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, judgement of others, and pride in himself are his chief sins. They set him up for everything that comes after. A more humble man might have truly felt guilty at the end of the opening sequence, might have been softened by Quasimodo, might have questioned his own actions, and might even have dealt with his lust in a sane way. It would, at least, have been possible. But no.

Frollo only shows self-doubt, I think, twice in the film. Once, briefly, when the Archdeacon calls him out for murdering a woman and trying to murder her baby, on the steps of the cathedral where she was trying to gain sanctuary (daaaaark), and once during his aforementioned villain-song. The latter is one of the reasons “Hellfire” is now high among my favorite Disney songs.

Most of the delightfully dark canon of villainy that Disney has produced sing cheerful songs about their villainous plans. Frollo, instead, is going through a spiritual battle that is anything but fun. He’s very mistaken about the nature of that battle. He thinks he is a righteous man being tempted by a foul, lustful witch. From the outside we can see that he is already well into the Enemy camp. He is just facing a new kind of sin, one that he still recognizes as sinful.

In other words, he is trying to resist the devil with the help of the devil. His mouth says “Maria,” and his heart seems to recognize his guilt despite his words: “It’s not my fault! Mea culpa! I’m not to blame! Mea Culpa!,”  but unless he recognizes the underlying state of his soul and repents, he is fighting a battle he cannot win.

The last lines are tortured: “God have mercy on her. God have mercy on me. But she will be mine or she will burn!”

The funny thing is, for me, that I usually pity the tortured ones, even if they are despicable. It is hard to pity Frollo. He is so utterly self-satisfied, such a vicious Knight Templar, so abusive, manipulative, and so corrupt in his obsession with Esme, that his death is a release. The only glimmer of pity I have is during his song, when the “God have mercy” lines come off as the dying breath of anything human in him. I can’t think of another Disney villain that is quite this complex and terrifyingly believable, while still existing in the best tradition of over-the-top villainy. Muahahaha.

For what it’s worth, his villain song also sets up what is, to me, one of the funniest lines in the film, just to make sure we don’t get overly serious.

“I had a little trouble with the fireplace.”

Indeed.

If it were not for the horrible effects, one would have to laugh. Frollo’s self-importance and self-righteousness are so ludicrous that they would be hilarious if not for the effect they have on his own soul, and the lives of everyone around him.

If you haven’t seen this film, or haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth a watch. With the exception of one irritating song, the soundtrack is delightful, rife with beautiful high-church choral themes, at least some of which are actual Latin prayers, bells (of course) and wonderful orchestration. And the story ain’t half-bad either. There are more interesting twists and turns than I’ve dealt with, here.

Fair warning for any who might actually expect (out of inexperience perhaps?) Disney to follow canon – This film has very little to do with the novel by Victor Hugo.  I’m curious to know what other people have gotten from this film, or if they disagree with me. Also, I’m always open to discussions on other films, Disney or otherwise.

I have a lot to think about in terms of narrative, relationship dynamics, and villainous roads to pyromaniacal insanity.

Wow. This is a super-long post, for me. Sorry, guys! If you happened to make it this far, I hope you did so because it was interesting!


Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

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With a glassy rustle, a dragon stretches a great green wing of feather-like translucent scales. It yawns, revealing several rows of sharp teeth and a pair of upward-curving, no-nonsense tusks. Resettling its wings, it pricks a pair of mule-like ears forward and peers out of the blog with emerald eyes.

Right, blog award.

Hello! My author, Jubilare, has asked that I not give my name here. She’s trying to keep her WIP’s mostly private until they are, ah, more prepared for the world, or the world is more prepared for them. I forget which.

But considering the name of this award, she felt that I should be the one to accept it. I don’t see why. I have very little to do with the day-to-day running of the blog, but she insists that she never would have started writing but for me. So here I am.

From the limited information she has given me, (research, dear, always research), the Dragon´s Loyalty Award is “presented to blogs with exceptional content.”

It is a great honor to accept this award. From the name, I assume that, lost somewhere in the shadowy (ahem, un-researched) history of this award is either a dragon who awarded it to a particularly loyal blog, or else it was awarded to a particularly loyal dragon who blogs. Not being a blogger, myself, I can’t really relate.

Jubilare: Um, buddy? can we try to get this in under 1000 words?

Not it you interrupt me we won’t.

Jubilare: Maybe I should’ve asked one of your brothers…

Which one? The one who makes me look laconic? The one you’d have to bribe? Or the one who’d actually make you do hours of research beforehand? Oh, or how about the one that hates you?

Jubilare: …Carry on.

Wings are re-shuffled, and the dragon draws a long breath.

Right. Well, as I was saying, it is an honor to accept this award on behalf of this blog. It, the blog, I mean, was awarded this prize by one Stephencwinter, whose blog my author greatly enjoys. Thank you, Mr. Winter! Visit my home some time. I’ll buy you a drink and show you around.

This award carries with it several requirements. Hold on.

The dragon holds out a scaly hand, complete with talons, and accepts a  poster-board from Jubilare. It looks like a post-it-note in the dragon’s grasp.

First: Display this award on your blog.

Jubilare: Done.

Great. Next we announce our win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded us. …I’m doing that right now, yes?

Jubilare: yep

Excellent. Now, we present this same award to 15 meritorious bloggers. Fifteen? This thing must multiply faster than rabbits.

Jubilare: I, uh, only have 12.

I see. Well, it looks like we don’t get to accept the award because my author doesn’t know how to follow rules.

Jubilare: Hey! Stephen didn’t do fifteen, either, and he still got to accept it.

The dragon grins toothily and flicks one ear. Oh, all right. If the award police come for me, though, I’m giving you up. I won’t go down for your crimes.

The twelve blogs Jubilare would like to nominate are… flips the poster-board and thrums the fingers of one taloned hand on the ground like a snare-drum-roll

Bekindrewrite – All shall love her, and despair!

Dreaming of Other Realms – an epic storyteller from “Kiwiland”

The Egotist’s Club – A magnificent menagerie of muses.

Grimmella – How can she not be awesome with a blog-name like that?

Lovethebadguy – Delightfully wicked

Pages Unbound – They read books. Lots of books. And tell us about them!

A Pilgrim in Narnia – already has one of these, that should tell you something

Res Studiorum et Ludorum -Profoundly Geeky, and Geekily Profound

Soughing of Pines – This dragon’s particular friend. Writer and Renaissance woman.

Strange Figures – Painfully honest, in a world in desperate need of honesty

Technicolorlilypond – Just as colorful as it says it is

The Warden’s Walk – Should be called “The Warden’s Fabulous Hat”

Now I must link them?

Jubilare: I just did.

And… let them know of their being awarded.

Jubilare: We’ll do that after we finish here.

You mean I will, don’t you.

Jubilare: I’ll help!

Alright. Last item on the list.

The tip of the dragon’s tail swishes.

Write seven things about you. …is that me-you or you-you?

Jubilare: I think it’s supposed to be me, but make one of them about you, just in case.

Hm. Well, Jubilare is obsessive. And I do mean obsessive. When she’s trying to work through a scene, she will sometimes listen to the same song, or handful of songs, for HOURS. IT’S HORRIBLE. And when she’s found something to obsess about, it is very hard to derail her to anything else.

She also loves almonds. She eats them all the time. Perhaps that ties in with the obsession issues.

What else… despite being obsessive, she is also easily distracted. While it is hard to get her off something she is obsessing over, it is equally hard to get her to focus on tasks. Very annoying when one is trying to get her to write.

I also think she is rather sweet, even when she’s glaring at me, like right now.

That’s what, four? Hm. Five would be that she is something of a pyromaniac. Not an arsonist, mind. She’s been well taught not to burn other people’s things without permission, but she loves fire. As a dragon, of course, I approve.

Six. She has a thing for creatures, like dragons, bats, creepy-crawlies and such, that are often reviled. Even as a kid, I was her imaginary friend. Every child should have a dragon, don’t you think?

Seven needs to be about me? Well, I love apple fritters and whiskey, not necessarily together. Please send apple fritters and whiskey by way of my author.

Thank you all. It’s been surprisingly fun.

Are we in under 1000 words?

Jubilare: Shockingly, yes. Thank you, oh dragon-mine. Here’s the list of “requirements,” that are optional, and will break the 1000 word limit, alas!

  1. Display Award on your Blog.
  2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present 15 deserving Bloggers with Award
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Please, Walk with me

jubilare:

Technicolorlilypond is a gem. She is in possession of both the inquiring mind of a scientist, and the creative mind of a writer and craftswoman. She has a great eye for beauty, and an appetite for books that frequently causes my jaw to drop. She is also fond of crows, which, to me, just goes to show how great she is.
She has, fairly recently, been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her response to this can be seen below. Please share and support as you can. I have experienced, first-hand, what a difference medical research can make. I want to see that difference, and more, in the war against MS.

Originally posted on technicolorlilypond:

Leaves and river by E.A. Schneider Leaves and river by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear readers. I’m writing to appeal to you for help with something that is really important to me: multiple sclerosis. In 2013 I was diagnosed with this disease. In oblique terms I wrote about my experience in four previous posts: Spring Crafting, Flash Fiction: Flight, Creations, and 2013: Reflections. Most of my heaviest emotions were in “2013: Reflections” wherein I used words and capsule reviews of stories to grapple with my new reality. I didn’t want to make a big deal about my disease here at the pond, and I still don’t, because I want to be defined by how I live my life rather than a disease I happen to have. However, someone really smart told me once that you can make more of a difference with one good interview or article than you can with years of…

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Late InMon!

Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite assures me that even late InMon submissions are acceptable. I have, therefore, used last-week’s prompt: “Narrow Future.” Here is a grim, but determined submission from my only character, as of yet, who absolutely insists on a first-person perspective. If nothing else, it is good practice.

Though the hall was full of Death’s Clerics, it was nearly silent. My sharp hearing caught the sound of their breath, but no one shuffled or sniffed, there was neither whisper of cloth nor creak of sandal. Only staring eyes and pricked ears. They all waited to hear my answer.
     Where once I thought of my future as an open field, full of roads and possibilities, I now saw that each turn, each choice made, had narrowed it down to a single forked path. Each drop of blood, each dying breath had closed a gate, not only on those I killed, but on me. Rhos tried to tell me, she saw the walls closing in, but she was young, it was easy to dismiss her worries. At least, until Bre killed her. That was when I finally understood. It was the turn, the fork in the road that lead me here, to one final choice.
     Two paths left, and one would be very short. How I wanted that way. Execution, judgment, to be shut out of the world.
     The other path was a narrow hunter’s track; I could not see the end of it. I shuddered.
     There was work to be done and I was suited for it. I had suited myself for it, all unaware. The clerics had, in their mercy, given me a choice, but I knew I did not deserve it. I had forfeited any right to my own life, they had every reason to bind me to their purpose, yet they gave me a way out.
     But to ask for execution was the coward’s way. To choose death over work would be, as ever, to avoid responsibility.  I am a murderer and a kinslayer, but I was not then, and am not yet a coward.
     “I will hunt at your bidding until the task is done or I am killed.” I had not spoken loudly, but in that silence my words startled like shattered glass.
     The high priestess stamped to quiet the flood of whispers, then she spoke.
     “You will not hunt at our pleasure, but at Death’s. But first you must face the fire and be purified. Remember the suffering you have brought upon others, it will help you to bear your own.”
     I shivered, as if from cold, and bowed my head.
    But I am not yet a coward.

Terry Pratchett

I wish my lilac was blooming already. I would put a sprig of it in my hair.

Rest in peace, Sir Terry. And thank you for introducing me to Vimes, and Death and the rest of your marvelous motley crew.


Spring Interim

March. Despite what the calendar says, Spring usually starts where I live earlier than the “first day of Spring.” My crocus and snowdrops have already shown their faces, and the daffodils are not far behind. Still, we are just getting over an ice storm that hit two weeks ago!

Ice storms, for any who are unfamiliar with them, are what happens when the temperature plummets while it is raining. It is absolutely gorgeous, and very dangerous. On the gorgeous side of things, everything, and I do mean everything, gets coated with a thick layer of perfectly clear ice. The pictures below may give you some idea, but they are nothing to the whole. Imagine the world is coated in glass and you will have some idea.

On the dangerous side of things, traction on packed and re-frozen snow is hard enough. On a solid sheet of ice, one needs cleats on one’s shoes, and the cars, here, simply aren’t equipped to deal with this kind of thing. We need tanks with spikes on the treads. I took a tumble and was lucky, I caught myself on my elbows. Painful, but it could have been worse.

Another problem is that ice is very heavy. Not all trees can handle it, nor all branches. Snow can weigh down a tree to breaking, but it can also fall off the tree a lot easier than a thick coat of ice. Power-lines come down. It’s all very exciting and worrying.

I might get tired of the danger if this sort of thing happens more often, but so far my primary reaction was “wow, this is gorgeous!” We may be in for another one this week (though hopefully not as long-lasting as this one, the last of the ice just melted last weekend), but still, Spring is hot on its heels and won’t be held back. There will be a few more frosts, no doubt, but there’s no stopping the momentum.

And that brings me to my scarcity. Spring planning, house-work, writing, and, unfortunately, tax season, are upon me. I have a long list of upcoming blog posts, and a desire to catch up on the blogs I read, but it must wait!

I have the follow up posts for Unlikely Treasure in the wings.

I still owe you all pictures of my newest masks.

I have long overdue Hobbit movie reviews.

And Stephen Winter has nominated me for a Dragon’s Loyalty Award for Excellence!  So, look for that forthcoming.

Until then, enjoy the pictures. Some look a little odd because I had trouble with my camera and had to do some adjustment after the fact.

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

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My porch-dragon looks pitiful, Image by Jubilare

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So cold my dog willingly wore a coat… Image by Jubilare

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Magnolia leaves complete coated, Image by Jubilare

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Broomsedge, too, Image by Jubilare

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Cloud 9 Panicum turned into an icefountain, Image by Jubilare

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Cherokee Sedge is still green… Image by Jubilare

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More icy grass, Image by Jubilare

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My Gray Owl Juniper looked like a frosted Christmas tree and pieces broke off when they were touched, Image by Jubilare

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My poor Wax Myrtle was bowed to the ground, Image by Jubilare

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Porch Dragon sporting an ice-beard, Image by Jubilare

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Junipers weighed down, Image by Jubilare

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Prairie Coneflower casting shadows on the snow, Image by Jubilare


Unlikely Treasure

As a child, I had little stashes of treasure. Translucent plastic beads, water-snail and mussel shells found in the Harpeth River, glass marbles, a ring with a little blue-glass jewel my brother gave me, a goat skull found on my godmother’s farm, a teardrop-shaped prism that filled rooms with tiny shards of rainbow, dried reindeer lichen, cheap pot-metal ornaments painted gold and set with faceted rainbow-glass, a lop-eared rabbit-puppet named Hazel (cookie points to anyone who gets the reference), an army (I’m not kidding, if they were alive and feeling militant, they could overwhelm you) of plastic horses.

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=25338&picture=green-glass-marbles

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan
www.publicdomainpictures.net

All things that are nearly, or completely, worthless in a monetary sense. But I think most people will easily understand that they are anything but worthless to me, even today.

Along with these objects, I kept, and still keep, deeper and even more precious hoards. Memories, words, emotions, pictures of places, sounds, smells, anything and everything that has struck a certain note in me. It is a very specific note. I can feel it vibrate, and it is always the same, though the things that cause it are so utterly disparate that even I cannot see the connection. I only feel that there is a connection.

I hunt for something, constantly. The very fact that, having these treasure-troves already, I am still hunting, tells me that these things, while they touch what I am looking for, are not the thing itself. Smoke on the wind, pine sap, limestone boulders… almost, almost! But the moment passes as soon as I know it has come. I’ve tracked my quarry and won a glimpse, but it has disappeared, again, amidst the trees and all I have left are tracks.

I worry, sometimes, that these hoards are of the world, and perhaps, in a sense, they are. They, themselves, that is. But the chord they strike, that is of such power and purity that I cannot imagine it having its source anywhere but in God. Perhaps I, and all my fellow creatures, are in danger of mistaking the source of the want, for misunderstanding what we are hunting. I could spend my whole life believing that I am seeking the things that reflect the light, and find once I have them, the light is gone. But at the same time, if it were not for the reflections these things give me, what would I know of the light?

Maybe I am wrong. But it seems that if so, at least I am not alone in my error.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook copy of The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis. Something he says near the end, in Chapter 10, made me think of my strange dragon-hoard.

I’m not sure, yet, how this is going to work, but I feel the need to explore the passage and my reaction to it. I think it will take at least one more post. It may take several. We shall see.  In the mean time, here is the passage itself. I’ve whittled it down a little for brevity’s sake, but I recommend picking up a copy of the book and reading the whole chapter (or, for that matter, the whole book, it is very interesting).

Warning, Lewis speaks about Pantheism, below. From what I know of him from his writing, I think his words are not intended to insult, but simply reflect his view. After all, he introduces this chapter as nothing more than his personal speculation. Still, it is possible to take it as an attack on pantheistic religions. I am not a pantheist, I believe that Lewis’s words are probably correct, but I mean no insult to anyone in posting this. If your beliefs differ from mine, feel free to express them (politely, please) in the comments below.

You may think that there is another reason for our silence about heaven, namely that we do not, really, desire it. But that may be an illusion. What I am now going to say is an opinion of my own…

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words. But most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you’ve stood before some landscape which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life, and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw, but at the first words a gulf yawns between you and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him…

Are not all life-long friendships born at the moment when, at last, you meet another human being who has some inkling, but faint and uncertain even in the best, of that something which you were born desiring and which… year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for…?

You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it… echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest, if there ever came an echo that did not die away, but swelled into the sound itself, you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt, you would say “here, at last, is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want… While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him, and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.

The mold in which a key is made would be a strange thing if you had never seen a key, and the key, itself, a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is… a key to unlock one of the doors in the House with many mansions. For it is not “Humanity” in the abstract that is to be saved, but you… God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you, and you alone, because you were made for it…

It is from this point of view that we can understand Hell in its aspect of privation. All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else that it was within your reach, and you have lost it forever. This may seem a perilously private and subjective notion of the “Pearl of Great Price,” but it is not. The thing I am speaking of is not an experience. You have experienced only the want of it. The thing, itself, has never actually been embodied in any thought, or image, or emotion. Always it has summoned you out of yourself, and if you will not go out of yourself to follow it, if you sit down to brood on the desire and attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you.

The door into life generally opens behind us, and the only wisdom for one haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work. The Secret Fire goes out when you use the bellows. Bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, turn your back on it and attend to your duties, and then it will blaze…

Such is my opinion, and it may be erroneous. Perhaps this secret desire, also, is part of the old man, and must be crucified before the end, but this opinion has a curious trick of evading denial. The desire, much more the satisfaction, has always refused to be fully present in any experience. Whatever you try to identify with it turns out to be, not it, but something else, so that hardly any degree of crucifixion or transformation could go beyond what the desire, itself, leads us to anticipate. Again, if this opinion is not true, something better is. But “something better,” not “this” or “that” experience, but something beyond it, is almost the definition of the thing I am trying to describe.

The thing you long for summons you away from the self. Even the desire for the thing lives only if you abandon it. This is the ultimate law. The seed dies to live, the bread must be cast upon the waters, he that loses his soul will save it. But the life of the seed, the finding of the bread, the recovery of the soul are as real as the preliminary sacrifice. Hence it is truly said of heaven: “in heaven there is no ownership.” If any, there, took it upon him to call anything his own, he would, straight-way, be thrust out into Hell and become an evil spirit. But it is also said: “to him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone, a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that recieveth it.”

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which, even in eternity, remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.

Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another: the communion of the saints.

If all experienced God in the same way, and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church Triumphant would have no symphony. It would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note… Heaven is a “city” and a “body” because the blessed remain eternally different, a “society” because each has something to tell all the others: fresh and ever-fresh news of the “My God” whom each finds in Him whom all praise as “Our God.” For, doubtless, the continually successful, yet never complete, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others, and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations, is also among the ends for which the individual was created.

For union exists only between distincts, and perhaps from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things. Pantheism is is a creed not so so much false, as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created, He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him and achieve union instead of sameness. Thus He, also, cast his bread upon the waters. Even within the creation, we might say that inanimate matter, which has no will, is one with God in a sense in which men are not. But it is not God’s purpose that we should go back into that old identity… but that we should go on to the maximum distinctness, there to be reunited with Him in a higher fashion.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Note: this is a transcription from audio. I cannot vouch for the punctuation, spelling, or even the exact wording, but I have done the best I can under the circumstances.


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