Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight.

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more.

When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,

and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On "Meditation in a Toolshed"

Read the essay: Meditation in a Toolshed, by C.S. Lewis

I would like this first blog post to say a little something about who I am, which, inevitably, means talking about what I did this past summer.  This August, actually—early August.  On the outside, it doesn’t sound like anything extraordinary.  I got on a plane, flew out to Colorado Springs, and spent five days and some odd hours in the mountains with a group of friends who I interact with mostly online, on a site for young Christian writers called CleanPlace.  I joined their community three years ago at the invitation of my cousin, and have been longing to spend time with them face-to-face ever since.  The gathering was called Moot (after the Entmoot in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) and was something like a writer’s conference, something like a giant, boisterous sleepover where no one got much sleep, and something like a family reunion, but with relatives you absolutely adore.  It was an experience that redefined who I was as a person.  And I promise that all this does have something to do with C.S. Lewis’s essay "Meditation in a Toolshed".
In his essay, Lewis describes two ways of seeing something—by looking at it, and by looking along it.  Each way offers a different perspective of the thing seen.  For example, when one is in love with someone, he or she tends to think of love in a very different way than a psychologist studying the phenomenon of love in biological or chemical terms.  Similarly, someone who is a sincere Christian will view his or her faith quite differently than a historian looking at the developments of Christianity and its sociopolitical impact over time.  In both cases, the first person is looking along something.  He or she is inside, experiencing it.  The second person is looking at the thing from a removed, analytical position.  In both cases, neither perspective is “wrong”.  However, Lewis notes that in our post-Enlightenment age many people have come to assume that looking at things is the only way to know the truth about them.  Looking along—experiencing—has been discarded as a means of discerning reality.
I wholeheartedly agree with Lewis, and his later assertion that “one must look both along and at everything”.  I also agree that, in certain cases, one perspective is clearly true and another clearly misleading, as in the case of the pagan who, while dancing, believes that his steps are helping to ensure a good harvest, rain, etc.  One way of looking could be more accurate than the other, or both ways could be equally accurate, or both equally inaccurate.  However, Lewis seems to imply that the main reason for looking at something from multiple perspectives is to test the truthfulness of each.  I would say, instead, that it is important to look at something from a variety of angles because each, on its own, gives an incomplete picture of the truth.  The more perspectives, the more wonderful a thing becomes—and the more it points back to its Creator.
One night at Moot, one of the leaders grabbed me a few friends and took us stargazing.  The mountain air was cold and clear, and the stars were astoundingly bright.  There were so many!  Millions—nay, billions more than I had ever been able to see in my own, light-polluted suburban hometown.  We even spotted a shooting star or two.  In the moment, I was definitely looking along the stars, enjoying their beauty, the deep silence of the sky, the weight of the mountains on every side, the tall pine and aspen trees, the bats that swooped overhead, and the warming presence of friends.  I was also aware, however, of another way to think about the stars, a more objective view.  I knew that the stars I was seeing were actually enormous suns millions and millions of light-years away, that some had their own solar systems, and various other facts from years of science classes, about gas and solar flares and black holes and the like.  Both views were true.  And, I firmly believe, both pointed back to God.  It was wonderful and humbling to look up at a sky brimming with stars and think that an infinitely-loving, infinitely-wise, and infinitely-powerful God had made them all, and it was just as wonderful and humbling to think of what I knew about stars, and to know that the same God had designed the universe with so much care that everything, from the smallest atom to whole galaxies, was in its proper place.  Apart, each perspective was good in its own way.  But together, they formed a whole which was even more amazing than either was individually.
Thus, I disagree with Lewis when he says that “the inside vision of rational thinking must be truer than the outside vision which sees only movements of grey matter; for if the outside vision were the correct one all thought (including this thought itself) would be valueless”.  Both views are true, but incomplete.  From the outside, we can’t understand the beauty and horror of our own imaginations, our mental and emotional capacities.  From the inside, we fail to appreciate the intricacies of our biology, the subtle movement of signals from cell to cell that form thoughts, feelings, sensations.   Thought, and other natural phenomena,  when viewed from a scientific standpoint are anything but valueless.  We must simply be careful to give credit where credit is due.  God is the author of creation, and all that we observe in creation should point back to Him.  It is when our knowledge points back only to ourselves that it becomes hollow and meaningless.


  1. Great thoughts :) Just add in that there were pine and aspen trees and you captured our night perfectly.

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughs as you explore Lewis!

  2. Lovely! :) And I love the reasoning you present in your last paragraph. (Can you tell I love rhetoric classes? :P)


  3. Wise words! Thank you for sharing with us--I look forward to more.

  4. I like your comment on - - - "Both views are true, but incomplete."
    That is the situation most of the times.

  5. Thanks, guys! Your comments are very encouraging. :)

    @ Nia--I can't tell the difference between a pine and fir tree, so thanks for enlightening me!

    @ EE-- *Hugs back* Here's to meeting you at Moot someday! :D