This is Trump’s ultimate victory. Every argument on every topic is now all about him. Hating Trump together has become the ultimate bonding ….
(David Brooks, Trump Has Made Us All Stupid)
* * *
I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.
‘Off so soon?’ said a voice.
The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.
‘Yes. I’m off,’ said the Ghost. ‘Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came—which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.’
‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit–an angel, as I now understood.
‘Be careful,’ it said. ‘He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams—all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent…’
‘Have I your permission?’ said the Angel to the Ghost.
‘I know it will kill me.’
‘It won’t. But supposing it did?’
‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’
‘Then I may?’
‘Damn and blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,’ bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, ‘God help me. God help me.’
Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.
‘Ow! That’s done for me,’ gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.
For a moment I could make out nothing ….
C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
* * *
Here endeth our parable.
The Ghost doesn’t die. Neither, oddly, does the Lizard.
The Ghost turns into a solid man. The lizard turns into a beautiful stallion, on which the Ghost rides off into deeper heaven.
Let him hear who hath ears to hear. I’ve got smaller fish to fry.
We don’t know what life will be like without our lizard. He won’t go away gladly or entirely. I don’t even know if we can get back the status quo ante (“You can’t turn back the clock,” they say) or that doing so is desirable (we invited him onto our shoulder for some reason, however ill-considered).
But on balance, how much worse could the alternative be than living with this creature?
* * *
For what it’s worth, The Great Divorce played an important part in my departure from the Protestantism I’d known all my in favor of Orthodox Christianity.
That departure entailed greater and more glorious changes than I could imagine, but which I might have apprehended had I heard that the great spiritual conflict of our age is The Struggle Against the Normal Life. The linked podcast also could be called “Orthodoxy versus Protestantism from 40,000 feet in 11 minutes, 5 seconds.”
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