Lord of the Dance (which has nothing to do with pseudo-Irish dancing)

The question we want to ask about Man’s ‘central’ position in this drama is really on a level with the disciples’ question, ‘Which of them was the greatest?’ It is the sort of question which God does not answer.

If from Man’s point of view the re-creation of non-human and even inanimate Nature appears a mere by-product of his own redemption, then equally from some remote, non-human point of view Man’s redemption may seem merely the preliminary to this more widely diffused springtime, and the very permission of Man’s fall may be supposed to have had that larger end in view.

Both attitudes will be right if they will consent to drop the words mere and merely. Nothing is ‘merely a by-product’ of anything else. All results are intended from the first.

What is subservient from one point of view is the main purpose from another. No thing or event is first or highest in a sense which forbids it to be also last and lowest. The partner who bows to Man in one movement of the dance receives Man’s reverences in another.

To be high or central means to abdicate continually: to be low means to be raised: all good masters are servants: God washes the feet of men. The concepts we usually bring to the consideration of such matters are miserably political and prosaic.

We think of flat repetitive equality and arbitrary privilege as the only two alternatives- thus missing all the overtones, the counterpoint, the vibrant sensitiveness, the inter-inanimations of reality.

From Miracles, by C. S. Lewis

Firstly, I am not sure “inter-inanimations” make sense in this quote, but I can find no evidence of it being a typo. There are days when it would be so convenient to send a deceased person a letter and get an answering one, but I guess Lewis deserves a break from correspondence for a while.

Third and lastly, there is a lot in here to unwind before I figure out how much I agree or disagree. Miracles is, by far, the most dense and difficult of Lewis’s works that I have encountered. I am acutely aware that I am not a scholar on his level, which seems to be the target audience. Still, I appreciate the challenge.

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

14 responses to “Lord of the Dance (which has nothing to do with pseudo-Irish dancing)

  • Rob

    Not to mention his writing style can be difficult as well. But we still read him, don’t we?

    • jubilare

      This style, certainly. With some of his other works, where he intentionally uses more simple language, I find him fairly easy to understand, but when he aims to meet his contemporary scholarly challengers with very specific language, as here, he can lose me pretty easily. Still, as you say, we keep reading because we know what we will eventually wring out of him makes us think. Or, at least, it is so for me. :)

  • Brenton Dickieson

    I struggle with this book. I’ve decided not to spend more time on it until I’ve moved through more of his work in general. So I’m hoping to read it again in late 2014. I’m going through Problem of Pain right now.

    • jubilare

      Struggle with the style or with the content or both? So far, I find myself struggling more with the former. When I feel I can unravel it, I generally agree, but the current chapter is wading into far more philosophical waters and is open to a lot more discussion. In any case, I am enjoying it, but I generally enjoy Lewis’s nonfiction. It always feels like I am having a hearty discussion or debate with a friend.

      • Brenton Dickieson

        Do find a victim… uh, friend… to have coffee with over this book!
        I struggled with Style. I have to write the arguments out, one after another, in such a linear fashion. I also don’t understand how he goes to probably from possibility (ch. 13, I think?). His idea that we can’t know reason is key.

        • jubilare

          Easier said than done, though I’d love it. My friends who would be interested in such are so darn busy at present. Being-to-busy, one of the great diseases of our age.

          Some passages I have to read over and over again, sometimes out loud, which always makes my dog look at me funny.

  • Colleen

    Oh, I like this quote. And your response.

  • Bill

    It helps me to think of creation as an on-going process, rather than something that just occurred once and was done. The nature of creation is such that all of creation participates in the ongoing act of creation, wonderfully changing and evolving, spirally ever upward (in my humble opinion). Lewis writes beautifully and I fully agree that “nothing is ‘merely a by-product’ of anything else.” But to say that “all results are intended from the first” risks suggesting that evil was “intended,” and diminishes the wonder of the creative process, which is rich with variety and seemingly endless possibilities.

    • jubilare

      That is the part of the passage that bothers me the most, as well.

      I agree with you, I think, save that I do not think creation spirals upward (if by that, you mean it improves). I do not think it spirals downward, either. I think it is no better or worse than ever it was, though it is different. I look at humanity, and we’ve come far in some ways and slipped backwards in others. I look at Nature and see that it has gained and lost.
      Like Lewis, I believe that all of creation, not just humanity, will be remade/renewed. I hope to see, in their renewed form, much of nature I now love, again. And maybe I’ll be taught to love things that, right now, are hard for me to stomach. In any case, I look forward to seeing that second dance.

  • Earl Wajenberg

    If you would like to read another statement of the same idea in fiction, look up the “Great Dance” at the end of Lewis’s novel “Perelandra.” In that scene, a mortal man asks a pair of Edenic aliens and a pair of angels a question that amounts to, “What is the meaning of it all?” … and gets an answer. Which turns into a lyric. Which turns into a vision. Which turns into something beyond words (and hence beyond narration). But then, what other kind of answer would serve?

    • jubilare

      Perhaps one we cannot yet comprehend. But until we can, the metaphor of the dance may help us understand at least part of it. :) I started the Space Trilogy years ago and somehow I got derailed and never finished it. I think it may be time to pick it up again. Thank you for dropping by and reading, and even more for commenting!

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