the question we are all asking of ourselves

"I only meant you could become more like the women of my world."

"What are they like?"

"They are of a great spirit.  They always reach out their hands for the new and unexpected good, and see that it is good long before the men understand it.  Their minds run ahead of what Maleldil has told them.  They do not need to wait for Him to tell them what is good, but know it for themselves as He does.  The are, as it were, little Maleldils.  And because of their wisdom, their beauty is as much greater than yours as the sweetness of these gourds surpasses the taste of water.  And because of their beauty the love which the men have for them is as much greater than the King's love for you as the naked burning of Deep Heaven seen from my world is more wonderful than the golden roof of yours."

"I wish I could see them."

"I wish you could..."

~Lewis, Perelandra

We're rereading the second book in Lewis' masterful space trilogy during these cold, quiet days.  In this section, the Un-Man, Weston, is whispering in the ear of the regal Lady, enticing her away from the simple and complete trust she has in Maleldil (God) and His commands.  You could be wiser, greater, more beautiful, he tells her, if only you were "old" enough to stand on your own and decide for yourself...

Over tea, Caleb and I talk about the deep implications, notice how nearly every advertisement, every narrative of modern life is whispering the same message.  Caleb, who has never read the book yet, says anxiously, "She won't give in, will she?"  Neither of us wants the exquisite and pure Lady to become as old as we are.

I know the end of the story and I tell him he must wait.  I am wrestling with my own thoughts, taking note of how the desire to be beautiful and all-knowing runs deep inside a woman's heart.  I am reaching a certain age and I understand how you could claw after beauty, how the mind could be come obsessed with retaining what physical attraction you once had.   

Scripture tells us the beauty of a woman lies in the imperishable qualities within her, the cultivation of gentleness and quietness, the submission of her soul to God.  Time and age are leading me to this knowing as they day by day erase the body, the face I once knew.  

I've watched a series of young girls grow to be women under the tutelage of the other "wisdom."  I see their self-portraits routinely on my screens: arms outstretched, lips pouting, bodies angled, desperate to be found beautiful, knowing, desirable.   They have yet to age and already they are clawing, hungry, obsessed.  For a moment I am frightened for the world, anxious for what is being lost.

Ransom, the hero, tells the Lady the rest of the story:

"The thing he wants you to try has been tried before.  Long ago, when our world began, there was only one man and one woman in it, as you and the King are in this.  And there once before he stood, as he stands now, talking to the woman...And she listened, and did the thing Maleldil had forbidden her to do.  But no joy and splendour came of it.  What came of it I cannot tell you because you have no image of it in your mind.  But all love was troubled and made cold, and Maleldil's voice became hard to hear so that wisdom grew little among them; and the woman was against the man and the mother against the child; and when they looked to eat there was no fruit on the trees, and hunting for food took all their time, so that their life became narrower, not wider." 

I think of those girls I know and I grieve for their already narrowed lives, already far older than they should be.  "She won't give in, will she?" asks my son, and it is the same question we are all asking of ourselves, our world.  

"She'll be braver than you expect, " I tell him.  "And she's not alone, you know.  Just wait and see."



somewhat related:  changing the way we think:  Death Doesn't Care About Sexy