However, being aware of the original intention of a quotation doesn't stifle its possibilities, and I think that an appreciation of the context in which one was written can actually enhance rather than limit its wider relevance. So, since I'm feeling a bit contemplative on this Sunday morning, let's talk about a line that's been floating about the internets since before the term "lifestyle blogger" was coined.
Did you know that C.S. Lewis was one of the great Christian apologists of the 20th century? Born in Belfast in 1898, Lewis became disillusioned with Christianity as a teenager but then, after serving in World War I and studying literature and classic philosophy at Oxford, re-embraced the faith. As a professor at Magdalen College, he joined a collective of intellectuals known as the Inklings - which included JRR Tolkien, who influenced Lewis' integration into the Church of England - and went on to publish dozens of books, most of which dealt with religious issues in one way or another. In 1941, when England was threatened with the inhumanity of war, Lewis gave a series of radio addresses that spoke to the central issues of Christianity; they were later complied into a three-volume work titled Mere Christianity. And, although C.S. Lewis denied that his famous Narnia series was a direct allegory to the real world, many readers and experts understand Aslan to represent Jesus and interpret strong biblical themes throughout the books.
I began writing this post with the intention of telling you that the quotation above was about dying and that the "better things" to which C.S. Lewis refers are in heaven. It would certainly fit with his identity as a Christian writer and philosopher who had experienced quite a bit of death, wouldn't it? But I couldn't actually find the context to this quotation anywhere online; I couldn't find the work from which it was taken or even an academic website attributing the line to C.S. Lewis. It's entirely possible that he never wrote this at all, or that it's a distillation of a few things he wrote in different places. But I still think the intro to this post, above the graphic, is valid. In fact, my point may be even more appropriate if the quotation isn't actually from C.S. Lewis. But as I searched for this line or any like it, I came across the end of The Last Battle, the final book in the Narnia series. The story starts when Jill and Eustace are jolted into Narnia from England while on a train, and finishes when they meet Aslan in a glorious place. He greets them and their companions:
"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be."
Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often."
"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?"
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands - dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Isn't that beautiful? I don't believe in the theology with which Lewis suffuses these books - and, honestly, I'm not even sure if I believe that anything happens to us after death - but I think it's full of hope and love and promise. What a wonderful thing to remember when we see that quotation wandering around the blogosphere, don't you think?
Updated: Georgia left me the correct link to this quotation in the comments below - it is C.S. Lewis, and it's from a letter he wrote to comfort a dying woman. Thank you, Georgia!