So, I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet” and realized that I need to reflect more. Often I simply finish a book, story, etc. and quickly move on. I like to think that I reflect “in thought” about the things I read but usually the distractions of living keep me from doing so. A lot of it is laziness, I’m sure. Regardless, I want to write more. I like writing. It helps me come to grips with what I’m thinking. One of the problems I have with writing is that I’m worried what people will think about it (and probably more-so, me) if they get their hands on the piece. However, I’m coming to realize that it just doesn’t matter. I need to reflect. Without reflection, will I ever really learn anything? Or be able to share with someone what somehow impacted me? The answer is an emphatic “No,” so I am going to reflect.
This newfound appreciation for reflection is actually one of the main things I took from reading “Out of the Silent Planet.” On page 74 of the book, Hyoi explains to Ransom how beings, or hnau (I think), on his planet Malacandra do not constantly seek out pleasure because they are content, or even happy, with simply remembering. He says, “A pleasure if full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.” I like this thought a lot. On merely simplistic grounds, this section of the book shines light on the idea that we find pleasure in remembering, and that if we do not remember we will be bound to repeat ourselves over and over again. It seems to tie memory, or reflection, with contentment. I find this to be true, which is partly why I decided to jot down some take-aways from my reading of this book. Hyoi then goes on to say “and how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back? – if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?” (75-76). Anyway, that was really just a part of the book I liked the most, so I wanted to get it in here somehow. So, yes… reflection, reflection, reflection.
Moving slightly backward, now I’d like to take a look at the overall message of the book. After reading it, it’s pretty obvious that it’s one big metaphor for us as Christians fighting against the devil’s strongholds. However, it’s more than that, too. I especially like the commentary on how evil, or “bent,” we as humans are. Lewis’ use of dialogue between the different types of beings on Malacandra and Ransom does such a good job of depicting just how silly some of humanity’s problems are. Here are some of the lines of such a conversation-
“…They were astonished at what he (Ransom) had to tell them of human history- of war, slavery and prostitution. ‘It is because they have no Oyarsa (god),’ said one of the pupils. ‘It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself,’ said Augray. ‘They cannot help it,’ said the old sorn. ‘There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil. These creatures have no elida. They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair- or one trying to see over a whole country when he is on a level with it- like a female trying to beget young on herself’” (102).
Another passage from earlier in the book does a good job at showing our problems, too. Here, Ransom is attempting to ask if Hyoi and his people experience war (and in doing so has to describe what war is)-
“It was difficult to explain. ‘If both wanted one thing and neither would give it,’ said Ransom, ‘would the other at last come with force? Would they say, give it or we kill you?’ ‘What sort of thing?’ ‘Well- food, perhaps.’ ‘If the other hnau wanted food, why should we not give it to them? We often do.’”
In such a simple way, Lewis shows just how trivial humanity is at its core. Our world is filled with conflict and strife. Why? Because some groups of people have what other groups want, and then said group goes and tries to get it. It’s like we’re all stuck in elementary school or something. Lewis knows that this problem arises from us being “bent,” or fallen, or, in other words, imperfect and in need of rescue. He does such a good job of showing this simply though that even if I was not a Christian I would be inclined to take on his worldview.
One other aspect of the book I want to touch on is the “resolution” Ransom makes on his journey to Meldilorn. Right before he makes this resolution, Ransom is experiencing widely ranging emotions that, at times, make him seriously contemplate halting his trip. Ransom realizes this, though, and decides something- “He made a strong resolution, defying in advance all changes of mood, that he would faithfully carry out the journey to Meldilorn if it could be done” (85). So, even when Ransom later goes through these different emotions, he sticks to the course. This small, little part of the plot is hugely significant to me as a Christian. It reminds me of both the “second decision” and simply having real faith. As people, our emotions vary too often to even realize. At least, that’s the case for me. So, if we let these emotions run our walks with God, we’ll end up essentially embarking on a path in the midst of a maze. Instead, if we have made such a decision to trust in Him no matter what we “feel,” things just simply work out. I’ve seen this time and time again. I love how Lewis explains this through Ransom, later saying that “But all the time the old resolution, taken when he could still think, was driving him up the road” (88).
I want to talk about that last thing further, but honestly I’m getting tired. It’s late, and I’m at my parents’ house for winter break. My first winter break post-college, actually. It’s quite odd. Nice, but definitely odd.
Anyway, I really did enjoy reading “Out of the Silent Planet.” I was going to touch on this further, but another of its great qualities was how vividly Lewis describes the scenery of space. Er, wait, the “heavens.” Damn. One last thing. That whole “space” vs. “heavens” thing was also helpful to me. Ransom makes the distinction between the two, saying he thinks he thought of the vastness outside our own planet as “space” before because of his fear for the unknown. Now, though, he prefers to call it the “heavens” because of how beautiful it is and how it’s actually OUR planet that is to be feared. I like that and think it’s partly true. I think we call it “space” because we think what WE are is good and whatever is out there, unknown, is bad. Maybe what we need to realize is that we aren’t actually that good. Maybe once we realize that what we need is something we can’t provide, something that is outside of ourselves- things will start to make sense. Maybe “space,” or emptiness, despair, unknown fear, is innately inside of us & we need to reach out to the “heavens” for the cure.