Eric's sense of snow

>> Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I think I probably missed the point. I was a little kid, we were in a bookstore--I think it was the Little Professor over in the Park Road shopping center, maybe--and I wanted a Ghost Rider comic book. I loved Ghost Rider, tho' I don't know that I could put my finger on the reason why. But my parents didn't buy the comic, no: they got me a book called The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. I read it to hate it: I'd read it and tell my parents how much I despised it, and next time we were in a bookstore they'd buy me a damn Ghost Rider comic book like I wanted and not screw me over, dammit.

Except that it didn't actually work out that way at all. I didn't hate the book at all. I was enthralled. Enchanted. Enraptured. Entrapped. I devoured Wardrobe and asked for Prince Caspian, and then things got a bit blurry and thirty-something years later I devour books, I pull off the rinds and chew the pulp until its juiceless and I swallow them in chunks. But it all started with C.S. Lewis.

Except I think I probably missed the point. I was a little kid, I was too young to notice allegory rearing its ugly head, and anyway my parents were never terribly religious. My mom is sort of an undifferentiated Christian and my dad used to be something like a deist at one point, I think--I'm honestly not sure what he believes vis-à-vis religion at this point (sorry, Dad!); we never went to church and religion wasn't much of a part of our household. They bought Wardrobe because it was a book my dad remembered as being a cool fantasy, not because they remembered it for being Christian allegory or indoctrination, and it was as a cool fantasy that I dug it. It wasn't until many years later, after I was well on my way to being an atheist, that I realized what Lewis was up to--and it wasn't until some years after that that I realized just how ineptly he did it. (He even works in a variation on his cruddy little "Lunatic, Liar or Lord" fallacy around page 43 of my edition, which is just delightfully awful).

And yet, Lewis indoctrinated me. Oh yes, I do think he did. Not the way he wanted to, I didn't become particularly religious or even a Christian--to the contrary, I ultimately became a total unbeliever. But I did fall in love with fantasy, and literature, and...


Maybe I would have loved snow anyway, growing up in the south where it's not a commonplace thing. But I really blame Lewis, I do. Of course, I missed the point: in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe the world-covered-in-snow is a bad place. It's a world without God, and therefore a cold world, but a world where Christmas--the celebration of the birth of the Savior, though Lewis can't help reducing it to toys and a visit from Santa Claus in spit of everything--never comes. It's cold, and it's miserable, and it's all the fault of that damn, icy-blooded bitch-witch.

And it's wonderful. It's a world all in white, a world of delicate spiderwebs of ice. A world of muffled silences and the loud thump of snow falling from tree branches. A world where you can walk (or skate) across water. A world that's luminous at night when the ground reflects the starlight up at you from below. And let's not neglect the best part of being cold: getting warm again. Hot chocolate and a roaring fire, the prickly sensation as feeling returns to your nose. The wonderful sensation of swaddling your feet before you go out and then releasing them again when you come in and pull your boots off. A steaming bowl of soup, or a mug of something in your hand. There's nothing better than getting warm again, when you've been cold.

That's what I learned from C.S. Lewis: not the love of a distant and fictional God who might die for the sins of a traitorous heart (though a lion would certainly make as nice a deity as any), but a love for the wonders of a frozen world. That was hardly his intent: snow, bad; melting, good. Oh yes, I probably missed the point. To hell with the point.

They say there's snow coming tonight, around midnight. In North Carolina, that's a big deal: we hardly ever see it, especially now. I'll believe it when it's on the ground, frankly. And if it comes, it won't be much at all. Maybe a tenth of an inch, I think they said. Pathetic. Before anyone from colder and better places rubs my nose in your feet and feet and feet of powdery white, I did go to college in the Appalachian mountains and we did get real snow (and I spent two delightful winters in Narnia when I was up there): you won't impress me, you'll only break my heart with jealousy; it's not that I don't want to hear from passing visitors, only that I consider you lucky. Treasure it, if you have it, and look out for friendly talking beavers and treacherous fauns serving tea and scones while I look out my window for a few flakes of magic.


rbird Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 8:56:00 PM EST  

that's not true! we did go to church (once or twice). you don't remember going for a car ride on christmas eve looking for a christmas eve service. then we'd find one and kind of deconstruct it afterwards. "yeah, those episcopaleans (sp?) aren't as fun as the methodists. they had all the candles and singing and shit."

Eric Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 9:15:00 PM EST  

Oh, I certainly do remember--I just wasn't counting those few and far between visits that were usually prompted by maternal guilt or Grandmother's presence in town.

In fact, I specifically remember one Christmas when I really tried to put my foot down and not go--I can't say what year it was, only that it was after I'd decided I was an atheist, sometime after seventh grade. I remember Dad telling me I was being disrespectful for trying to refuse to go, which seemed kind of ironic to me: it wasn't exactly respectful of my feelings to insist I sit through a church service, especially since I rejected Christianity before I rejected theism.

I think you had more fun than I did: you had a healthier attitude to everything. I was always too fucking serious about everything. I could have made an awesome emo kid if (a) I'd had the nerve to paint my fingernails and die my hair and (b) emo had been invented in those days. Of course, regarding (b), we had goth (real original goth--Bauhaus and Siouxsie Sioux), but I somehow didn't really discover it until I was well past the age of dying my hair black and doodling Sandman sketches next to my bad poems.

Incidentally, one cool consequence of this post was that Dad called me up to talk about religion, which was pretty neat. (Hey, Dad: looks like you're reading about yourself, again! Heh.)

MWT Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 1:32:00 AM EST  

Couple random comments:

1. I remember Dad telling me I was being disrespectful for trying to refuse to go,

On the flip side, it's disrespectful to a religion to go through the motions pretending like you're a believer when you really aren't.

2. I was goth before goth was at all popular. On that topic, Have some more of my blather. :)

Eric Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 6:38:00 PM EST  

Well, I didn't do much pretending when I got there: I pretty much just sat around and watched. I've had to do the same sort of thing since then at marriages and funerals.

The disrespect my Dad referred to was disrespect of family members: I see where he was coming from, though I also don't quite see how me sitting there all resentful-like and sulky really benefited anyone. But these are things you do, I suppose, and everyone had good intentions. I suppose, too, that one of the things about being the grown-up is you get to win contests of will like that by default--we weren't both going to get what we wanted, and I was the adolescent.

I hope my Dad doesn't come by and feel bad: really, it wasn't that traumatic an experience, and most of the emotional scars have healed since I became old enough to purchase the copious quantities of alcohol which allow me to numb my misery and shame until I wake up and crack another bottle of sweet, sweet tranquility....


(Love ya, Dad.)

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