Archives For Aslan

Humor & Health

November 16, 2012 — 9 Comments

I had to have blood drawn today for an upcoming physical exam. It’s not one of my favorite things to do, but I consciously try not to allow my feelings to negatively affect the caregivers who provide these essential procedures for our wellbeing. (Trust me, dentists especially are sorely in need of our appreciation.) I often try to add a little smile to their day employing a touch of light humor.

Today, for example, I was repeating a blood test I had already accomplished earlier this week. When the corpsman (Naval hospital) asked which arm I said, “you better take it out of my left arm . . . they weren’t happy with the numbers in the sample they got from my right.”

Now, a modest joke like that won’t make it into any comedians’ monologues, but it did inspire a chuckle from the four of us in the lab at that moment.

It reminded me of getting my flu shot last year and having my choice of four different corpsmen to administer it. Each had a waiting line. I could only imagine what it was like to be puncturing one anonymous arm after another for eight hours. Most “victims” silent, but many grimacing and some feeling compelled to describe to you just how much they hate shots.

Three of the corpsmen were normal sized human beings. But the fourth was a behemoth. The seams of his uniform were near to bursting due to his extraordinary musculature. I doubt he was on steroids, but his massive figure could have fit into the offensive line of any team in the NFL. And, for some mysterious reason, his waiting line was the shortest.

When I approached him to receive my vaccination, I ventured (in a voice loud enough for his companions to hear): “I chose you because you look like you’re gentle.” Everyone got a laugh out of that, and I felt pleased at having momentarily brightened their day.

My kids are always wary when I make comments like this. They recognize that every time we open our mouths, it’s a gamble. We can achieve our goal, and elicit someone’s precious smile . . . or we can make a fool of ourselves.

As a grandfather, I have the added “protection” of not having too much expected of me, in the wittiness department. By the grace of God, I’m still in possession of the bulk of my mental capacities. I imagine that, should I live long enough, most of my attempts at humor may grow rather lame. But, if there remains any cultural respect for our elders, even these attempts will be recognized for what they are—goodwill. And, as such, there are those from whom they will still elicit a smile.

We should not be afraid of humor, especially in its most humble and intimate forms. Woven amidst the threads of our daily conversations, it enriches life.

C.S. Lewis recognized this quite well. In The Magician’s Nephew, which recounts the creation of Narnia, Aslan says to the newly anointed animals: “Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”

Lewis notes something in Reflections on the Psalms that I too have found to be true. “A little comic relief in a discussion does no harm, however serious the topic may be. (In my own experience the funniest things have occurred in the gravest and most sincere conversations.)”

Because of this, it’s not uncommon when we sit with those who have lost a loved one, to find that the conversation often drifts towards those happy and humorous moments that were shared with the departed. I’ve heard much healing laughter in the still sorrowing presence of the grieving. And, whether the words or thoughts evoke bold laughter or simple smiles, I tend to consider them a good thing indeed.

Travel Weary

September 17, 2012 — 6 Comments

I enjoy traveling. Cross country car trips are exciting adventures that have created some of my fondest memories. Flying to other countries has been the equivalent of stepping through a looking-glass; one moment you’re surrounded by the familiar and only a “few moments” after, you are immersed in utterly foreign environs.

Admittedly, traveling by air is a bit less enjoyable now, given the necessary security precautions. And, my 75 inch frame has never savored being wedged into the standard airline seat. Still, being able to cross to the opposite slide of the planet within a day borders on the amazing. I would have used the word “unbelievable,” but for the fact that imminent breakthroughs in low orbit travel will likely make today’s flight durations seem protracted.

While travel is often invigorating, there is an annual journey that I do not look forward to. Each year I travel to Saint Louis—a lovely city in America’s heartland—as a member of my church’s commission for military ministry. The problem arises from the fact that we fly in on a Thursday, begin with an informal gathering around dinner, and then rise early for business meetings that last into the late afternoon. Then, we fly home on an early evening flight that gets us home (in my case) about midnight.

While the clock says midnight, that is on a day when we got up in a different time zone, which means we’ve been on the run for twenty hours . . . and a ninety minute drive home from the airport is still ahead. It becomes a bit of a safety concern when you haven’t napped at all. Why not, you might wonder? Well, the truth is that I am one of the many people with sleep apnea, and the decibel level of my snoring could constitute assault. My exhaustion is an inevitable consequence of my consideration of others.

I know I’m not alone in having to take trips like this. What I’m describing is probably familiar to many of you. It’s just that spending nearly twenty-four hours over two days traveling to and from approximately eight hours of meetings leaves me exhausted.

Then there is the consideration that we don’t always make the best decisions when we are tired. There’s an intriguing passage in Prince Caspian where C.S. Lewis describes a decision facing the Narnian heroes. Young Lucy, pure of heart, has informed the group that Aslan would have them follow a particular route. However, in a wonderful portrayal of religious democracy, the band decides to put the matter to a vote! And, just as in church bodies today, we learn that not all ballots result in divinely inspired decisions.

There’s nothing for it but a vote,” said Edmund.

“All right,” replied Peter. “You’re the eldest, D.L.F. What do you vote for? Up or down?”

“Down,” said the Dwarf. “I know nothing about Aslan. But I do know that if we turn left and follow the gorge up, it might lead us all day before we found a place where we could cross it. Whereas if we turn right and go down, we’re bound to reach the Great River in about a couple of hours. And if there are any real lions about, we want to go away from them, not toward them.”

“What do you say, Susan?”

“Don’t be angry, Lu,” said Susan, “but I do think we should go down. I’m dead tired. Do let’s get out of this wretched wood into the open as quick as we can. And none of us except you saw anything.”

“Edmund?” said Peter.

“Well, there’s just this,” said Edmund, speaking quickly and turning a little red. “When we first discovered Narnia a year ago—or a thousand years ago, whichever it is—it was Lucy who discovered it first and none of us would believe her. I was the worst of the lot, I know. Yet she was right after all. Wouldn’t it be fair to believe her this time? I vote for going up.”

“Oh, Ed!” said Lucy and seized his hand.

“And now it’s your turn, Peter,” said Susan, “and I do hope—”

“Oh, shut up, shut up and let a chap think,” interrupted Peter. “I’d much rather not have to vote.”

“You’re the High King,” said Trumpkin sternly. “Down,” said Peter after a long pause. “I know Lucy may be right after all, but I can’t help it. We must do one or the other.”

At many times in our life journeys we may find ourselves “dead tired” like Susan. But we need to keep our wits about us so we don’t make decisions that lead us down paths destined to bring even more suffering and fatigue.

The following passage from Lewis’ Mere Christianity illustrates how we often justify our poor decisions and inconsiderate actions with our tiredness. I certainly do. Perhaps you’ll see a little of yourself in the following words.

I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money—the one you have almost forgotten—came when you were very hard-up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done—well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behaviour to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it—and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same.

That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much—we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so—that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these explanations. It is only our
temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.

Well, I’m too tired to write any more on this subject now, so those of you who have remained with me to this point, can count yourselves blessed!

Another Creative Outburst

March 11, 2012 — 1 Comment

…well, maybe not quite an “outburst.” Anyway, creating that “poster” for my last column proved a little too fun, and I had to revisit the website to invest a few more playful minutes. It took less time to draft the images below than it did to find the right graphics for each. Enjoy.

C.S. Lewis’ Lion

December 9, 2011 — 2 Comments

The Chronicles of Narnia rank among the finest children’s literature ever written. And the introduction of the noble Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a wondrous highlight of the series.

In 1951, Lewis wrote a letter to some fans of his “new” book. He said:

I am glad you all liked The Lion. A number of mothers, and still more, schoolmistresses, have decided that it is likely to frighten children, so it is not selling very well. But the real children like it, and I am astonished how some very young ones seem to understand it. I think it frightens some adults, but very few children.

As usual, the Oxford don was astute. There are those who have considered some of the themes in The Chronicles to be overly mature for some children. But that is a more insidious reason for some objections leveled against the books. More on that momentarily.

The stories are admired by many secular readers, and they are beloved by Christian readers of all ages. Some liberal readers object to what they consider to be “dated” (i.e. traditional) attitudes in the books. Honest literary critics recognize that literature written more than a half century ago would reflect the mores of their era and provenance. Lewis’ skepticism about “public” schools (i.e. in American parlance, “private” academies) is one such example.

But behind some objections to Lewis’ children’s books lies a more sinister agenda. Some secularists believe that only their own agnostic faith should be promoted, and they object to any expression of Christianity in the public forum. Some such activists have even advocated that The Chronicles barred from schools because they recognize that Aslan has a “different name” in our world.

Fortunately, The Chronicles of Narnia overflow with so much intrinsic merit that only the most cynical object to them. They are popular today, and that is likely to remain true in the foreseeable future. They have translated well to digital, audio and cinematic formats. But, for most of us, the soft caress of the printed page remains the medium of choice . . . when we cross through the wardrobe door into this land of awe.

Sharing Surnames

November 2, 2011 — 1 Comment

“‘It isn’t Narnia, you know,’ sobbed Lucy. ‘It’s you. We shan’t meet you there [again]. And how can we live, never meeting you?’

‘But you shall meet me, dear one,’ said Aslan.

‘Are—are you there too, Sir?’ said Edmund.

‘I am,’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’”

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

 Names are precious, and the way that others who share your name bring to it honor or dishonor is important. As Ecclesiastes says, “A good name is better than precious ointment . . .”

I may be more sensitive to this truth than most people, because I grew up with a modestly (in)famous name. Fewer people recognize the link today, since the Burt Lancaster film that publicized the Birdman of Alcatraz is rarely aired. When I was a kid, it seemed to be run annually, like the Wizard of Oz, and I invariably could count on someone making the name connection every time it ran.

Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. Lancaster’s portrayal of the compassionate inmate was extremely sympathetic. The connection didn’t bother me much. Well, not until I read about the genuine Robert Stroud. Not quite as appealing a human being. Enough said.

Anya Stroud, WarriorIf you conduct some web searches on variations of your family name, you’ll be surprised what you find. I recently came across a fictional “relative” named Anya Stroud. She looks like someone you’d like to have at your side in an apocalyptic battle, doesn’t she? I understand she is a resident of just such a violent world, in the game system she inhabits.

Returning though to the real world . . . what we do with our name means a great deal to others who share it, especially to our family. Perhaps most of all, to our descendants. Much better for them to look back upon an honorable and godly ancestor rather than a vile example of unredeemed humanity.

And there is another aspect to guarding our name. One of the names followers of Jesus are known by is “Christian.” This is the most precious name we can hold. It is because of this name we can approach our Creator and call him “Father.”

This is a name we should strive to protect and make praiseworthy. We should not however try to earn it, since that’s impossible. It’s a name given simply as a gift, to all who believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah promised to be our Redeemer.


Parents are blessed when their children bring honor to their name. So too our Father in heaven. In a world where many hypocrites appeal to his name to defraud and mislead others, it is good to be reminded that our calling as disciples is to live in a manner that conforms to God’s command: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”