Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Contemplative Life (Part 2) and Prince Caspian

The second piece of learning from the "Finding the Inner Hermit" presentation happens to go along with one of my reflections on the most recent film from the Narnia stories, so I will deal with them in tandem.

One of the points about reflections on the contemplative life that really struck a cord with me was the idea that just because contemplation and meditation (finding times of silence in which to be more fully aware of God's presence) may be difficult for some of us (me as much as anyone) doesn't mean we don't need it, and even desire it on a deep and perhaps unknown level.

The suggestion was that as we intentionally allow for time to be intensely present to God, we also grow in our ability to do so as we experience it feeding us in ways we previous did not know was possible. In particular this can be difficult for those of us who have grown up in a highly stimulative environment. One example given was how the experience of going to a baseball game has changed. Baseball has a methodical pace. There is time between each pitch. A good at bat might take several minutes before a ball is hit into fair territory, and long periods of time can go by between runs scored. Not too many years ago, this pace meant that there were times of silence when watching a game--If you were at the stadium, you might have opportunities to appreciate a beautiful sky, the bright green grass, etc. But now any lull is filled with loud music and sound effects. There is constant noise which only subsides for action in the game. Our presenter said the experience can feel as if the game is an interruption in the otherwise constant noise. As we become accustom to this level of noise, we are increasingly distracted from being able to appreciate times of solitude and silence as opportunities to become aware of God's presence. Such times of silence and solitude come to feel like uncomfortable interruptions in a busy noisy life.


I went to see Prince Caspian with our youth last night. Okay, another stimulative noisy event, but it is C.S Lewis, and, by Aslan, that has to be worth something!

The movie has many redeeming features and has many wonderful things that can be said about it--but I won't share any of those! I was bothered by a decision in how to portray the way in which Lucy is the first to recognize Aslan's presence while the others believe he is not around to help. In the book, there is a great scene where Lucy insists on following Aslan down an incredibly dangerous and unlikely trail. The others think she has gone mad but finally follow Lucy who claims to be following Aslan who the others are unable to see. As the unlikely trail begins to show promise, some of the others begin to see Aslan's shadow, and eventually are able to see him just as plainly as Lucy. It is by following Lucy who is better in tune with Aslan's presence that they come to be aware of Aslan's presence as well. (A great image for what it might mean to grow in our ability to become more aware of God through the practice of contemplation).

The movie does not have this gradual scene. Lucy sees Aslan, but does not follow because the others will not go with her. This happens once in the book and the second time she follows. It happens twice in the movie, and she never has the opportunity to stand up and insist that the others follow her. Instead, she is alone with Aslan for several scenes, then at the end, Aslan appears to everyone in an instant. The sense of a journey that depends, at least in part, on the assurance of a sister daughter of eve is lost in the movie, and I find that unfortunate.

But still, if you get a chance to see the movie do (but don't expect any moments for silent contemplation during it).


Heather Ann said...

YES! Someone else who was looking for that scene. I just left a comment on another blog about how dissappointed I was not to find that amazing moonlight walk of faith. I LOVED the movie, and I think it did make some good points about having faith, but you have expressed exactly what I was feeling:

"It is by following Lucy who is better in tune with Aslan's presence that they come to be aware of Aslan's presence as well. (A great image for what it might mean to grow in our ability to become more aware of God through the practice of contemplation)."

- Still loved the movie! Maranatha!

Heather Ann said...

(Forgot to click the "email follow ups" so posting again..)

Eric Helms said...

Thanks for the comment--it does seem to me to be an important scene. It was just about the only one I really remembered, and have used it a few times as a sermon illustration.

Patrick Roberts said...

the makers of Prince Caspian kept to the original story better than i would have expected... i heard they were going to make it into a silly pure-action flick, but thankfully this was not the case