Late Summer Reading

In book four of The Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, while the boys are skinning a slain bear for its meat, Lucy says to Susan,

Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?

Susan doesn’t respond to Lucy’s fears, saying instead that they have too much to worry about right now in Narnia.

The dwarf has just killed a grey bear with an arrow after it tried to attack them; Susan hesitated to release her arrow because she thought it might be one of the talking bears she used to know when she was queen in Narnia.

It is a tricky line of reasoning for CS Lewis, since in the books the talking animals do eat fish and bacon, and in general behave as people did in mid-century England. They avoid killing whenever possible except in self defense. It seems like fish don’t count, only mammals, and bacon apparently is in its own food group!

The idea is that if a creature has the ability to reason, it should be treated with compassion. And even if it can’t reason but is not attacking, we should be gentle and kind with it.

Of course, if an animal were going to attack, we would defend ourselves. Humans are animals too. And unfortunately, some humans seem to have lost the ability to control their anger or fear and, armed with guns, they attack.

Sometimes society can be like Lucy’s fears, that we can’t tell the evolved humans from the ones who have lost a good part of their hearts. Who hasn’t met up with people who lie and manipulate for their own, hidden agendas?

The trick is to meditate, to stay true to our hearts, to be outdoors and in nature, to keep a clear mind and not fall into the dream of “getting and spending” and “laying waste our powers,” as Wordsworth put it so well almost two hundred years ago.

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