Before moving on to the next book in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, there are a few random thoughts on The Horse and His Boy (TH&HB) that I want to mention. All are short so I’ve clumped them together here.
Longing for Home
The setting of TH&HB is different than all the other books in the Narnian Chronicles. The story takes place in a land adjacent to Narnia known as Calormen, whose description conjures up visions of Arabian Nights, old Persia or the Middle East. There are great desserts, exotic trees and flowers, lavish palaces, and dirty, impoverished slums. In Narnia, all the characters speak British English, but the language spoken by humans in Calormen is not English and the animals don’t speak at all. This creates a foreign environment that makes it easy for us to understand why the talking horses, Bree and Hwin, long to return to their homeland of Narnia where animals speak. The boy, Shasta, who unknown to him was born in Narnia, also has feelings of longing for the land over the hills to the north (Narnia).
Lewis often wrote of longing for home. Here are two quotes I especially like that refer to longing for our “ultimate” home:
“I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.” --Mere Christianity
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” --The Problem of Pain
Quote: “But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power to force yourself.”
I’ve noticed the truth of this in my life…that when I no longer HAVE to do something, it is sometimes hard to do it all. For example, the past two years I’ve kept a “Words of the Prophets” journal in which I recorded notes by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I set the goal to accomplish this and, at the end of each year, I ended up with a wonderful compilation of quotes from the Ensign, Church News, and Conference talks. I started out to do the same in 2009 but didn’t get very far. When my mother passed away in March, my routine was turned upside down and I got behind in my reading and recording. Then in May, when I was given the challenge to participate in what Elder M. Russell Ballard calls “new media,” I started this blog and abandoned the journal (both were very time consuming and I found I could only do one). I switched my discretionary time to blogging from journaling. I still read the words of the prophets from same sources, but not with the same attention to detail; and I definitely don’t spend the time thinking about their words like I did when I kept a journal. After our stake conference broadcast last weekend where Elder Russell M. Nelson encouraged us to listen to and follow the prophets, I realized how much I missed really digging into their comments. I need to evaluate how I use my time to see if I can both blog and also journal the words of the prophets.
Quote: “After all,” said Shasta, “this road is bound to get somewhere.” But that all depends on what you mean by somewhere.
This quote reminded me of the one from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland that I often used years ago when teaching Young Women:
“Cheshire Puss,” [Alice] began timidly…Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—“ Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Both quotes address the fact that just because we’re moving along a path doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to get where we want to end up. We need to have a clear goal in mind (ultimate life goal: exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom) and know the path that leads there (faith, repentance, baptism by immersion for remission of sins, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, keeping commandments and covenants and enduring to the end). Christ has marked the path and shown the way; we need to listen to his voice and follow him. If we don’t, we’ll surely get somewhere (like Shasta and Alice commented) but chances are our destination will not be the one for which we hoped and planned. This also applies to our daily lives and the choices we make with our time and resources.
Two Types of Communicating
Quote: "For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays."
I had to smile when I read this. My mind went back to my high school days when I was taking both Advanced Placement English and Journalism at the same time. I enjoyed reading classical books and leading-edge poetry, but the essays I had to write about them drove me to distraction. Having to analyze everything to death killed my enthusiasm for the works themselves. On the other hand, writing articles for the school paper was great fun and provided a wonderful creative outlet. I doubt whether anyone (including the teacher) enjoyed reading the essays, but I know lots of people (including the teacher) enjoyed reading the stories that appeared in The Spectator. I appreciate the discipline learned through writing essays, but I wish there were some way to make essay writing as entertaining as writing newspaper stories, fiction, and blogs.
I also thought about the New Testament and how Jesus taught timeless principles through parables, or stories. The stories are easy to understand and remember, while straight exposition often takes more effort to understand and apply to our daily lives. There is power in a story well told.
Taking It One Step Further
Quote: "And certainly both Horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could, which is not quite the same thing."
There have been times in my life when I’ve thought: “Enough is enough! I can’t take on one more thing. I’m doing everything I can do. Anything else and I will collapse.” This was particularly true during my 20 years working for an environmental consulting firm, where I advanced from typist to Vice President of Marketing. At each stage of my career, I thought I was doing all I could and couldn’t do anything more. Thankfully, I agreed to continually take on new assignments that allowed me to move up in the company to a position I absolutely loved. I realize that what I thought was “all I could do” actually wasn’t, and that with the push and encouragement of my boss I was able to progress and advance, just like the horses did when chased by Aslan. I think this is true in our spiritual lives as well: we can always do more to draw closer to God and Jesus Christ, and to serve others than we might think possible. If we truly want to follow Christ’s example of unselfish service and devotion to God, a means will be provided that we can accomplish it. Like a marathon runner, we often have to push beyond what we think is our limit in order to accomplish every needful thing.