Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces

One of the masterpieces of the great Irish writer C.S. Lewis is the mythical novel Till We Have Faces, one of his personal favorite works.  I read it for the third time this week --- the first when I was about twenty, the second when I was about fifty, and now at sixty-five in the audio book form as I drove to Michigan and back.

Finally I felt that I was able (as a former English teacher!) to connect more with its overwhelming message.  Sometimes the greatest literature requires a lifetime to sink in, and this is a real example of that.  It’s worth it for us to let such things have their way.

The main character, the princess Orual, represents every one of us.  She is utterly believable as she spends hundreds of pages candidly describing her life story as the sister of the goddess Psyche (the story is an adaptation of the myth of Cupid and Psyche --- Lewis was a professor at Oxford of such things), as her manifestly ugly visage does not find favor as her magnificently beautiful sister’s does, till…

The gods take her up on her challenge. 

I think the key phrase in the book, near the end, is ‘I am Ungit!’  She, as we, have the same nature as the goddess who hates the true god of the mountain who has chosen Psyche as his bride.

I’m not a fan of myth and fantasy, so perhaps it’s taken me these three readings, and the last by listening to a superb oral reader, to absorb the essential meaning.  It’s humility!  Humility!

Who are we really, to bring a suit against God?  Actually, is that not the primary crisis of our lives, to choose to follow our own selves (Ungit seems to be in part a symbol for self-will) rather than find our fulfilment in the one who we were intended to be with all along?  Is self-will versus humility the core of the struggle of human existence?

I realize that I am only touching on partial themes of the book in this comment.  There’s much more depth and complexity than I mention here.

Lewis is, I think, one of those special people of the beatific vision.  He is worth paying attention to.

I hope I’m paying more attention, and acting.  ‘…I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?’

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July 20, 1969!


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