On a Saturday evening, September 19th, 1931, Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis, his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien, and Hugo Dyson took a stroll down Addison’s Walk, a scenic, nature walk on the grounds of Magdalene College at Oxford. They had just had dinner and were ready for some great conversation. The topic of conversation? Myth vs. Reality.
They discussed the Northern Myths filled with heroes that lived stories of great courage. They discussed those stories of the Nordic gods who laid down their lives in a sacrifice to save their people. The skeptical Lewis had no idea what he was getting himself into, as the devout Catholic Tolkien and Dyson, also a committed Christian, were able to somewhat convince Lewis that courage like that does actually exists, and all the great stories and myths that these literature connoisseurs had grown to love, all had hints of the Truth.
Why is it that charity makes so much sense, when it is so counter cultural to what we believe? Why is the idea of the innocent laying down his or her life to save the guilty so alluring, and make for the greatest stories? Why does a God, giving up his splendor to become poor, and meek, and breakable, resound so deeply at our core? Because all the myths contain truths about the one True Myth that was to live out in real life events. The story of the innocent Jesus, laying aside his godhood, being nailed to a cross by his own creation in order to save those whom he loved, was a TRUE myth that all great stories, and legends contained bits and pieces of, until it was played out on the stage of history… That was the topic of conversation.
Lewis had become a Theist up till this point, but had not stepped over the line and admitted Christ to be his savior. It was this conversation, that went well into the night, that lead to that evening and into the next day that would be a catalyst for Lewis’s conversion… one of the most influential conversations that happened in the 20th Century… the ripple effects are still moving forward.
I was walking on that path. It was just as you would have imagined. It looked like something out of a calendar. The towering tress, hanging just above our heads, providing perfect shade to our path. The stream that twisted and turned seamlessly along side the path. The stone bridges, with the punting boats tied up closely to the edge of the water. Deer grazed the fields to my right. Flowers bloomed by the side of the trail on my left. It was the perfect place to discuss the validation of the Christian story. To think. To mediate. To pray. To wonder.
Oxford, to my surprise did not contain a whole lot of tributes to Lewis. It may be because they are trying to keep the integrity of a wonderful institution, and does not want to make their fine school a mecca for tourists, or it could be that the secular forces that are there are not interested in promoting a man that bucked the system back in the 30’s and 40’s, with his popular Christian books. Regardless, there were few, but not many references to Lewis… I saw more Harry Potter merchandise in the downtown shops than I did Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. But I suppose that makes sense.
However, our professor did show us a little known, and rarely viewed stone memorial on Addison’s Walk that I was happy Magdalene College had put in place. It was a poem. Simple. Sweet. But powerful. In silence we listened to the birds sing and absorbed this little poem on a small stone bridge crossing the river on Addison’s Walk:
What the Bird Said, Early in the Year
I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick! – the gates are drawn apart.
– C.S. Lewis
I stood there and thought, it does not matter our struggles today. It does not matter the mistakes we are trying to overcome right now or the mistakes we will have to overcome tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what we are addicted to currently, or the addictions that await us in our future… indeed I believe heaven will be populated with addicts at all different levels of recovery.
It does not matter our entanglements in this world today or what numbers our bank account represent. The winter is almost over. Summer is on it’s way. Flowers are beginning to bloom. Soon blossoms will remain on the apple tree. The winter spell will be broken. The gates will be open. Quick, quick! Let us enter the together.
Remember… when Alsan is on the move, the winter spell begins to melt. One day, summer will arrive. We’ll climb the hill. We’ll drop our packs. We’ll enter into summer… We’ll enjoy our Creator.