Submission: Freedom

I am reading Thomas Howard’s The Achievement of C.S. Lewis.  From the chapter “Perelandra: The Paradoxes of Joy”:

This is one of the ironies often appearing in Lewis’s fiction, that perfection itself (life in Perelandra in this case) can be made to seem confining and demeaning and boring by the  sullen alchemy of evil.  Dissatisfaction, sailing under false colors of liberation and ambition and progress, is the flagship in Weston’s flotilla, as it were.  And it eventually becomes clear that this dissatisfaction with what is given stands at the polar opposite to the obedience and contentment exhibited in people like the Beavers…..In the world of Malacandra and Perelandra (and Narnia), it appears that acceptance of the given, and submission to it, is the key to contentment.  Paradoxically, of course, contrary to the accusations of all Nietzschean and Promethean romantics like Uncle Andrew and Jadis and Weston that this is all an opiate, this submission is synonymous with freedom and maturity.  It is analogous to one’s submission to the steps of a minuet or to swimming instructions:  here is how it is done, and if you want to know the lovely freedom of dancing and swimming, you must do it this way.  The same bright alchemy that transforms rules and obedience into freedom and joy here can also be seen at work in all gymnasts and ballet dancers and poets and athletes.  They have all learned how it is done.  If it is objected here that this is the very recipe itself for bondage and that on this accounting all tyrants may brutalize the creatures under their rule, it may be pointed out that it is the nature of evil, alas, to ape the good.

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