Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creation (part 5- Creativity)

I think it is pretty evident that C.S. Lewis had a plethora of creativity.  In this post, I will delve a bit more into my thoughts on creative life.


Lewis placed quite an emphasis on creativity.  He “believed strongly that originality was the prerogative of God alone and that, even within the Trinity, originality seemed to be confined to God the Father.”[1]  Therefore all which is created is ultimately linked back to God.  The cars we drive, the pens we write with, and even the pipes we smoke are all examples of creation by man, but ultimately through God’s gift of creativity to man.

The only way we can “perceive the Creation” is through “image, metaphor, and myth”[2] because there is no way of obtaining true knowledge.  We gain knowledge paired with creativity because we were created in the image of the first Creator.  “God has designed his higher creatures for the happiness of being voluntarily united to him” because “a world of robots would hardly be worth creating.”[3]  Lewis understood the breadth of creativity through the gifts and care given in the Creator’s making of humans.  

He believed this so much, in fact, that he did not think there was “a vestige of real creativity in human beings” because “human authors only rearrange elements God has provided.”[4]  Therefore everything that is made by humans is ultimately linked back to God.  It all has pieces of something existing in order to create something new; God is the only being who can create something entirely from no preexisting matter.

Creativity is exemplified within the imaginatively creative work that is the Chronicles of Narnia.  It is apparent from his writings that “from his parents Lewis had inherited both a lively imagination and an intensely pious sentiment.”[5] Not only does Lewis’ creativity shine through the literature itself, but the characters and settings are packed with ingenuity.  

Polly and Digory, for example, are imaginative children who make their own adventures.  They are genuinely curious adventurers by nature whose “horizons are expanded far beyond what they would have believed possible” because “the spirit of adventure literally opens a whole new world to them.”[6] They see the good in organic exploration without the need to harm others in the process, unlike Uncle Andrew who does not care what happens to his guinea pigs during experiments.  

Uncle Andrew and Jadis are the two characters within The Magician’s Nephew who are illustrated as magicians, or those who rely on experiments over creativity.  It is interesting to note Jadis’s reaction to when they appear in the uncreated Narnia.  She stated, “’This is an empty world.  This is Nothing.’”[7]  Her lack of creativity impeded on the potential for the dark place of Nothing to be anything worthwhile.  A place that had impending possibilities if only she would have had the patience to wait and see what happens only moments later with Aslan’s song.  

“Aslan,” on the other hand, “is the symbol of true creation, of originality, and his song, so movingly described by Lewis, is the archetype of all earthly literary or musical creations.”[8]  The retelling of the Genesis creation story gives prominence to a Lion in contrast with a wicked human, a task that only a creative writer could pull off successfully.

Since the Creator of Narnia is depicted as a Lion, it is evident that Lewis held a special view of animals and their place in the kingdom of God.  Most of his fictional writing includes them; starting at a young age with his creation of the Boxen characters and moving along to the Narnia books, the theme of talking animals seems to be of particular interest.  

“In a garden of Eden and Noah’s-ark abundance of animal life, Lewis sets his creation myth, giving the animals to themselves.”[9]  He imagined a world where creatures were able to govern themselves.  In fact, Lewis’s “interest in other worlds”[10] is a significant theme within his writings as well.  His space trilogy along with Boxen and Narnia are unmistakable of this because “they gave him both pleasure and an escape from an otherwise constricting reality.”[11]  

Alan Jacobs sums up the creative life of Lewis by stating that “the sort of boy who thinks that worlds as different as Animal-Land and India could be joined might well grow up to be the sort of man who thinks that one can put talking animals, fauns, witches, and Father Christmas in the same book.”[12]  Yet I am sure Lewis would agree that the creative force behind his retelling of Genesis is a God enabling his literary skills and thoughtful mind. 

[1] Vaus, 63.
[2] Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis (plus), Reprint ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 145.
[3] Vaus, 51.
[4] Ibid, 63.
[5] Donald Hettinga, “C.S. Lewis” in Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Children's Writers, 1914-1960, ed. Gary D. Schmidt (Detroit: Gale, 1996), 160: 137.
[6] Rogers, 132.
[7] Lewis, Magician’s Nephew, 60.
[8] Glover, 173.
[9] Glover, 177.
[10] Ibid, 74.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Jacobs, 13.

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