Some two years ago yesterday a dreadful movie version of C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian opened. In Adherence with tradition I traipsed down to the theater for opening night. Meeting up with pals for a light dinner of sushi, I complained endlessly about how itchy I had been. I was itchy all over all the time. Over sushi and Sake we all developed a dozen or so itch explanations, each more outlandish than the next. The evening would have been a right success if it hadn’t been for the deplorable nature of the film. Yes, the acting was minimal, yes the editing was scattered and the script nearly non-existent but it was the barely there story line that presented itself in the first few minutes of the film that really ruined the experience.That and the overt and somewhat overbearing Christianity.
This is, of course, a shame. The book Prince Caspian is not a badly written book. In fact, it has a well structured story, which is both interesting and compelling. The characters are each engaging and well developed. After all C.S. Lewis was no unskilled at writing. He was a christian and very deliberately worked the story of Jesus and the bible into his writing. But in the realm of fantasy fiction this is not unusual. The messiah, the savior, the sacrifice – are all themes, which various ways find their way into works of fantasy and science fiction. Not to mention that the Bible and the story of Jesus have always been alluring to fiction writers as an example of these themes and worthy of at the minimum influencing story development and at most worthy of being retold in new contexts and on new worlds.
C.S. Lewis was a friend and colleague of J.R.R Tolkien. The two were part of a writers group, the Inklings. The friends often wrote letters to one another and differed greatly in their thoughts of how to work religion and Christianity in particular, into their writing. C.S. Lewis took a much more direct route. But Tolkien too, had elements of Christian theology in his writing.
I am not offended by C.S. Lewis for incorporating Christianity into his books. I enjoyed them well enough when I was younger and would recommended them to other young people to read. The ideas aren’t inherently offensive to me, perhaps outdated and too conservative. But the ideas of faithfulness to cause, loyalty and kinship are not deplorable, just easily used to also convey to the reader that Christ deserves your undying devotion.
But the film. The film. It was so over the top proselytizing that it made me feel pity for the long dead C.S. Lewis. A gifted writer, he used his talent to eloquently write his Christian faith into his work in a manner that while sometimes obnoxious, was at least well done. This film version just packed together a cheap Sunday sermon with bad acting and over-the-top special effects.
My friends were all in agreement upon leaving the theater. The film was a dud.
My bike ride home was uneventful. My mind was preoccupied with the lengthy list of things I had to do the following day. I was in the midst of planing a move to Boston and a summer of traveling. I was scheduled to leave DC in just a couple of days for a direct action training camp in Montana, followed by some time with my mom in Washington state, a train trip to California to spend a good two months with my dad and then a bike ride to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention where I was going to be helping with legal support for the protesters. My little basement room was mostly packed and ready to be moved into storage for the summer before being moved to my new home in Boston. The flurry of activity required of me to accomplish my many tasks had taken a great deal too much energy.
I went to bed among the boxes with the thought that my friend would very well make good on her threat to wake me up at 7:30 in the morning for breakfast with another friend from out-of-town. So when my phone rang in the wee hours of the morning I rolled over and didn’t get up. I knew it would be her too chipper for that early hour voice willing me to go to breakfast. Eventually I did get up though and listened to a voice mail message. It was not, in fact my friend, but my step mom. She sounded upset and told me to call home right away. My father had been quite sick for some time. This was the reason I was going to spend the summer with him in California. My heart sank. He must have been put back in the hospital.
The story from here on is not new to most. My father was not being readmitted to the hospital but had in fact passed away in his sleep.
My dear friends surrounded me with such love and support on that day. They guided me through the steps of getting my things in order enough to leave on a plane that afternoon. They sat with me as I talked to my family. They held my hand as I told my brother that our dad had passed away. In those tendered moments I so cherished having friends to lean on.
Today it is two years since that horrible day. Sometime I wish I could go back and do it all again. This sounds awful but from my position it would mean being able to live in the moment of such raw emotion that seems neither misplaced or confusing. Two years out from that day I find the emotions to muddled in time to clearly feel and I can hardly say that I live in the moment.
Two years is some substantial amount of time. But when compared to the 27 some years that my dad was a part of my life and I a part of his, two years is a blink. I have perhaps processed a teaspoons worth of the grief I feel. I keep myself from crying because I imagine that if I started what good reason would I have to stop? There isn’t a starting point really and there is no real end point that can be reached through a clear and easily navigable process. Some large part of me feels like I would have to entirely give myself over completely to the effort or not at all. I’ve, for the most part, chosen the not at all option.
The analogy that I have used so many times is to compare my living to being in a vast and unknown wilderness. I entered on the day my father passed away and have yet to emerge, let alone find a path. It seems to me that I may be to wounded to make much progress. I must spend a great deal of time tending to myself in order to simply maintain my course through this wilderness. A path would nice, but there is also something to be said for having to wonder a bit. Getting scraped up, having to double back and sometimes slog through unpleasant things is not horrible. It’s just terribly hard sometimes.
Two years and I would have thought I’d be more capable of understanding what it is I have to due to mend myself a bit more. But maybe its just something that time heals and sometimes like with other things it gets worse for a bit before it gets better.
I do know that the omnipresent feeling I have of missing my dad will not abate soon. And perhaps if I live a little more in the present – in and among my thoughts and feelings – I will be able to settle more comfortably into knowing that I can’t simply call him up but rather must take time from my day to sit with him in memory.
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