Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Great Bridge Builder

Part Three

Only Connect

What they were seeing may be hard to believe when you read it in print, but it was almost as hard to believe when you saw it happening. The things in the picture were moving. It didn't look at all like a cinema either; the colours were too real and clean and out-of-doors for that. Down went the prow of the ship into the wave and up went a great shock of spray. And then up went the wave behind her, and her stern and her deck became visible for the first time, and then disappeared as the next wave came to meet her and the bows went up again. At the same moment an exercise book which had been lying beside Edmund on the bed flapped, rose and sailed through the air to the wall behind him, and Lucy felt all her hair whipping round her face as it does on a windy day. And this was a windy day; but the wind was blowing out of the picture towards them. And suddenly with the wind came the noises - the swishing of waves and the slap of water against the ship's sides and the creaking and the overall high steady roar of air and water. But it was the smell, the wild, briny smell, which really convinced Lucy that she was not dreaming.
C.S Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The picture on the wall, in this passage, serves as a bridge between the everyday world of the house and bedroom and the Otherworldly locale of Narnia.
Reflecting on this, can we begin to think of people, places and things in our own lives that might, or might once have, performed a similar function? How can we start to forge a connection and rapport between our day to day lives and jobs, and our imaginative, creative and spiritual aspirations?
Aslan, at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, refers to himself as the 'Great Bridge Builder'. What, who and where are our own bridges?
How might we set about finding those magic, intuitive keys that straddle both inner and outer worlds? Is there anything or anyone close at hand that could possibly span both levels of experience and bridge the chasm that David Gascoyne, and so many other sensitive men and women, have found such a source of distress?
In the passage above, the children enter Narnia through the modus operandi of a painting on a wall. What paintings, frames or doorways might we bring to imaginative life to restore the connection between the separate parts of ourselves, as well with the Divine? It's far from easy, as we know, to harmonise the material and the spiritual worlds so that they work in concert rather than chafing against each other. But this is where the gift of imagination can and does help.
Maybe we could visualise something like the entrance to an underground train station - prosaic and mysterious at the same time. Or the strange, suggestive arches formed by poplar trees swaying together in the wind. It could be a wardrobe door, of course. Or a cubby-hole. Or an unexpectedly discovered flight of stairs, spiralling down before you, a glimmer of golden light peeping up around the corners from the bottom far away. Or it might be a person. Someone you know well. Or a total stranger. Or an in between person - a stranger who seems somehow familiar, someone who reminds us of something in ourselves and in the world that we think we have forgotten ...
Until our vision is cleansed. And we know that the Otherworld has been with us all the time.
A bridge with a wider realm of depth, meaning, pattern and purpose has been established. Our senses and imaginations blossom anew - out of the depths - and the world feels so much more nuanced and multi-layered than we had previously imagination. 
This transformation doesn't make things easy. Far from it. The possibilities opening up to us now are liberating - undoubtedly - but frightening as well. Especially when we've been living in Plato's cave for a while. But a corner has been turned. The wasteland has been re-animated. Things will be different from now on. In short, as Julie finds in The Red Diamond, we have come alive ...
"And Julie's soul was filled with sadness.'It's all my fault. There's nothing I can do. Nowhere I can go. Oh, it's all so hopeless.'
Then came a change; sharp and subtle. A girl of around her own age appeared to her left, springing almost supernaturally from the far wall, looking left and right with darting glances like a mythical hind. Her hair was short and brown. Her red jacket and black skirt were striking in the slow-burn slumber of the street-lights. Julie smelt the Chanel No. 5 in the damp air. Something stirred and quickened in her throat as the strange apparition sprinted for the station in long, graceful strides.
Julie watched her slip away from sight, up the wet and shiny stairway, into the station's bottomless depth and mystery ... "
Once we have our bridge, or our 'wood' between the worlds, can we then go on to think of ways we can combine and interfuse the two, so that this, supposedly 'mundane' level of reality, becomes as freighted with the numinous as Tir-na-Nog, the Isles of the Blessed or Avalon itself?
With the help of C.S Lewis's friend, Charles Williams, this is exactly what we will be exploring in the Part 4 of 'The Great Bridge Builder'.




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