"To every man, in his acquaintance with a new art, there comes a moment when that which before was meaningless first lifts, as it were, one corner of the curtain that hides its mystery, and reveals, in a burst of delight which later and fuller understanding can hardly ever equal, one glimpse of the indefinite possibilities within." - C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
In the spring semester of my junior year of college, I took a class all about C.S. Lewis. We read ten of his books, and every Tuesday and Thursday, we spent two hours reading our favorite excerpts and discussing the theology underneath the stories. It was an incredible class - one of my favorites of my college career.
One of the books we read was Out of the Silent Planet, the first of a space trilogy about the adventures of Dr. Ransom and his close encounters with other worlds. True to form, Lewis took advantage of the current issues of his day - he wrote his trilogy during the time when War of the Worlds had we humans thinking maybe, just maybe, there might be others out there. And that idea scared us; because what we don't know or understand is frightening and fills us with judgment.
But unlike H.G. Wells, Lewis wrote his trilogy based on the idea that the lifeforms on other planets might not be hostile. Dr. Ransom is abducted by aliens and taken to Malacandra. At first, he is scared (understandably so). But as time progresses, he discovers that just because the aliens act and look differently than him does not mean that they are scary. In fact, Dr. Ransom learns many life lessons from the creatures he interacts with in his travels. The aliens are not foreigners to be feared - they are examples to be learned from.
Anyway, it was a great book. Read it if you get the chance.
Out of the Silent Planet reminded of my semester in Japan. I went there on a whim; I didn't know much about the culture, the people, or the customs. In a way, it was like being on another planet, surrounded by aliens. And it was frightening. But as my time there progressed, I realized that I had much to learn from the Japanese culture. The concept of putting the well-being of the group before an individual's needs and the geniune concern for their fellow man blew me away. It was like nothing I had ever experienced in the States. I learned so much about education, relationships, respect, and many other things.
And at the end of my three months there, the curtain had been completely drawn back, and a new and wonderful culture had been revealed.
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