Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Excerpt: Conversations with C.S. Lewis

Here's a brief excerpt from my new book Conversations with C.S. Lewis. I should preface the excerpt by explaining what the book is about.

It's a work of fiction featuring a series of discussions between C.S. Lewis (Jack) and a contemporary atheist (Tom). The book is written in the first-person, from the perspective of the atheist. As such, wherever you see "I" in the excerpt, this refers to Tom. Note, too, that in this chapter Tom is wearing a hospital gown.

To learn more about the book visit InterVarsity Press or take a look at an interview about the book conducted with the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Chapter 11: Narnia and the World of Imagination

Of assorted events mainly about the role of imagination, the Narnia chronicles, and Jack's insights on faith, fantasy, and philosophy.

The bus landed gently. As the door opened, we exited. Unlike the gray town, we were now in bright daylight. Storybook clouds filled the vivid blue sky - white and cotton-like. Jack pointed to a hill. I looked up and saw large golden gates at the top.

"I thought the gates were pearly," I smirked.

"That's not where we are. Come, let's ascend."

As we reached the top of the hill an extraordinary and amusing site greeted me. I saw a mouse with strikingly dark fur, about two feet tall, wearing a thin gold circlet on its head. The circlet held a large crimson feather. As we approached, the diminutive creature, rapier at his side, first bowed, then spoke.

"Welcome, Sir Jack!" it squeaked. I almost laughed, but a stern look from Jack warned me against such behavior.

"It is a joy to see you again," smiled Jack. "May I - "

"Very well, if you must," answered the creature. "But only once."

Jack reached down, picked up the animal and gave it a gentle hug before setting it down again.

"And this, Sir Jack, must be your squire?" The diminutive creature looked in my direction, his piercing black eyes showing no fear, but rather boldness with a hint of disdain. It lifted its right hand to its face and began to twirl a whisker.

"No, this is Tom. He is my guest."

"I see. Enter, then, the world of Sir Jack's imagination."

The mouse gave another low bow. He gestured to the golden gates and as he did so they slowly opened. I noticed a plaque on one of the gates, which read, "Art thou for something rare, and profitable? Wouldest thou see a Truth within a Fable?"

Before I had time to ask Jack about the plaque, the gates were fully opened. I gasped at the sight before me. In the distance to my right I saw four children clothed in winter coats making their way through an area of snowy woods - an open wardrobe near them, much like the one I had stepped through earlier. The children stopped at a lamp post, apparently pausing to discuss something. Not too far from them I saw what looked like animals climbing out of the earth. Lower on the horizon a flying horse began its descent - two children riding upon it.

I turned to my left and saw colorful floating islands. A small red serpent, a seemingly gentle dragon (unlike Nigel), stretched its wings then curled up near a tree. I thought I caught a glimpse of a green-skinned woman dashing through the strange foliage. I looked up and saw a spaceship of some kind, but spherical, soaring against the backdrop of a starry sky.

In the distance loomed an enormous mountain; only it wasn't a mountain, but a giant. A woman on a horse approached it (or him), a determined look on her face. She held a gleaming sword in her hands.

The clanging of swords from another direction caught my attention. I looked and saw a veiled woman, fighting fiercely against a man. A crowd gathered round them. In another direction I saw an eerie castle. In the courtyard were countless statues of various mythological creatures - a centaur, a giant, dwarves, several animals.

Further away, upon a hill, I could barely make out a great golden lion gazing over all the scenes. Even though he was far away, his presence made me uncomfortable. He seemed to look everywhere. And yet, he also seemed to look right at me.

Startled, I saw a large brown bear bounding in our direction, much too close for my tastes. A man appeared to be chasing the beast.

"Jack! Let's get out of here," I implored. But Jack stood his ground. The bear reached us, stood up on its hind legs and began to lick Jack's face.

Jack beamed. He hugged the bear, which seemed to placate it somewhat, and it got down on all fours again. At this point the man chasing the bear arrived, yelling. "Mad bear, what have I told you about scaring visitors!"

The man, who carried a soap-covered scrub brush, spoke with what sounded like a thick Scottish accent, though Jack said the man was from Ulster.

"Sorry, sirs," he said to us. "He always gets that way come bath time."

"No problem at all," said Jack.

"Mr. - ?" queried the Ulsterman.

"Lewis. Jack Lewis. Call me Jack."

"And who might you be?" said the man, looking at me.

"I'm Thomas Clerk."

"Escaped from a hospital, did you?" he asked.

"It's complicated," I replied.

"And might you know where we are?" inquired the man with the scrub brush.

"We are in a representation of the world of my imagination," replied Jack calmly.

"And do you have any proof - any, that is, veridical evidence that this is the case?" The thought had occurred to me, as well.

"Look around you," answered Jack, gesturing at the many scenes taking place around us. The man gazed around, taking in the same incredible sight I first saw upon entering through the golden gates.

"Good point," he said. "But maybe we are just dreaming or hallucinating."

The bear went bounding off in another direction and the man went chasing after him.

This excerpt from Conversations with C.S. Lewis is copyright © 2008 by Robert Velarde. All rights reserved.

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