Truth Imagined

What comes next? In his book Between Heaven and Hell, Catholic theologian and author Peter Kreeft imagines Aldus Huxley, C. S. Lewis and President John F. Kennedy (who all died on the same day 47 years ago this week - November 22, 1963) in Purgatory engaged in "The Great Conversation that has been going on for millennia."In Kreeft's imagined conversation, each brings his unique perspective: Lewis' western theism, Kennedy's western humanism and Huxley's eastern pantheism. The dialogue is honest and pointed. In one exchange, Kennedy complains that Lewis is too "black and white" and that everything is actually gray. When Kennedy asks Lewis to demonstrate that there is truth by naming one thing that is "black and white," Lewis responds, "I'll give you two... black and white."However, before his conversion to Christianity, C. S. Lewis wasn't as certain about truth and actually defined myths as "lies breathed through silver." J.R.R. Tolkien, deep in writing Lord of the Rings, countered that "myth is invention about truth." He went on to write to Lewis that "We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed, only by myth-making, only by becoming a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall."We are made in the image of the Creator; we are made to sub-create and, in part, to explore and discover the meaning of life. I love the vision cast in the 1989 film What Dreams May Come in which Robin Williams "sub-creates" his reality in Heaven through his imagination. Something strikes me as "true" about this view of "next." Imagination is part of God's good creation; it will be redeemed, and we will enjoy it forever.In the recent movie Hereafter, Steven Spielberg and director Clint Eastwood explore the afterlife through story, with protagonist Matt Damon having conversations with the dead. "The Great Conversation" and the "next" are tailor-made to be explored through imagination. A few of us had the privilege last week of seeing the newest, and perhaps most beautiful of Walden Media's newest installment of the Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which Reepicheep (the most compelling character to me) finds "utter east" -- Aslan's land -- "where the sky and water meet, where the waves grow sweet."Lewis was convinced, and would later write, that "For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition." It is no surprise, then, that is was Tolkien's insistence that Christianity is the "one true myth" which led to Lewis' certainty.I applaud Kreeft for using story to carry the "Great Conversation." In Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, Death asks the returning crusader Antonius Block, "Do You never stop questioning?" "No," he replies, "I never stop."Like Lewis and Reepicheep, never stop searching for the truth and meaning until you find it. And use your imagination to get there.