It's a Wonderful World by Ken Myers

CONTOURS OF CULTURE

It's a Wonderful World

For many years, I have seen references to C. S. Lewis's story about how his imagination was "baptized" upon a chance reading of George MacDonald's Phantastes. The episode is often cited to affirm a vague Christianizing of Lewis's inner life. Recently, while re-reading an essay by MacDonald about the nature of the imagination, I finally understood the fittingness of Lewis's use of sacramental language to describe this conversion.

Lewis's recounting of this event is at the end of Chapter XI of Surprised by Joy, "Check," in which he recalls that before reading MacDonald, his imaginative life stood "over against" the life of his intellect. "Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless." Some quality in MacDonald's story revealed to Lewis that this dualism was not inevitable, that the real world could be worthy of love, could in fact evoke love. It was a quality Lewis describes as "Holiness," and it connected the realm of the imagination—where Lewis had fixed Joy—with the stuff of everyday life known by reason.

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Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.

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