Monday, February 15, 2010

what I'm reading: a cure for materialism from Chesterton's Orthodoxy

Do you remember Puddleglum in CS Lewis's The Silver Chair? Do you remember how the witch tried to convince him that the only reality was her underground world: that there were no stars or trees, and no Aslan? Do you remember how Puddleglum answered her?

"I've seen the sky full of stars. I've seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I've seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn't look at him for brightness ... Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. ... That's why ... I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan."
I wonder if CS Lewis had been reading GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy. For Chesterton's arguments against materialism (the belief that this world is all there is) remind me of Puddleglum's:

Most modern thinkers ... take one thin explanation and carry it very far. But a pattern can stretch for ever and still be a small pattern. They see a chess-board white on black, and if the universe is paved with it, it is still white on black. ...

[The materialist] understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding. His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cog-wheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world. ... It is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea. ... If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The thing has shrunk. The deity is less divine than many men; and ... the whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it. ...

The main deductions of the materialist ... gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human.

I'm with Aslan - and Jesus.

quotes are from CS Lewis's The Silver Chair and GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy 20-23

image of Puddleglum is by Pauline Baynes from CS Lewis' The Silver Chair; second image is by Robert the Noid at flickr

1 comment:

Ben McLaughlin said...

Thanks Jean, this was a really helpful post for me to read this morning.