How to Walk Upside Down, Sideways, and at an Angle (Tread the Dawn Series)

tread the dawnThis is the launch of a news series of blogs called “Tread the Dawn”. The blogs in this series are inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Have you ever hung upside down with your feet attached to the floor? What about straight sideways, yet maintaining a standing position? What about an angle somewhere between upside down and straight out? These may sound like the antics of an acrobat at the circus, but the reality is that this is something that each of us do every day. How is that? Because we live on the surface of a round world! We live on a sphere where the person even 20 feet away from us is technically angled just slightly away from us, though imperceptible to the eye, for the world is starting to bend already. This is an astounding fact! Yet for most of us we have lost any sense of marvel at this phenomenon made possible by the physics of God’s Universe.

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17In C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader King Caspian marvels to find out that Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace come from a “round world”.

“But look here,” said Eustace, “this is all rot. The world’s round—I mean, round like a ball, not like a table.”

“Our world is,” said Edmund. “But is this?”

“Do you mean to say,” asked Caspian, “that you three come from a round world (round like a ball) and you’ve never told me! … It must be exciting to live on a thing like a ball. Have you ever been to the parts where people walk about upside-down?”

Edmund shook his head. “And it isn’t like that,” he added. “There’s nothing particularly exciting about a round world when you’re there.”[1]

stars in skyDiscovering this fact as an explorer who has discovered a new land, Caspian wonders at the possibilities of what might be possible on a round world. To him it sounds like a playground with endless possibilities, but to the Pevensies and Scrubb there is little excitement left in a world in which they have lived their whole lives. Why is that? Why is it that we so quickly and easily lose our sense of wonder? We live on a world that is a giant ball! This is a world where water transforms into a gas, floating above our heads and forming shapes that resemble mountains, animals, and whatever our imagination might create. Each day we behold a giant ball of fire in our sky and each night we see a face on an enormous sphere among the stars. Speaking of stars, for those of us fortunate enough to live away from the pollution of light in the city, we are spectators to other worlds, worlds that might not even exist at this time, as the light that we perceive with our own eyes may be of a world that existed thousands of years ago. Why do we lose our sense of wonder?

There is much that certainly can be said to answer the question of why we lose our wonder. Part of that answer will find us guilty of seeing ourselves as the god of a universe which we view as grandiose but is actually shrinking to microscopic sizes day by day (cf. Lewis’ The Great Divorce). Other parts of the answer are more innocent. Life has its demands on us to varying degrees. Some of us do not know how we will provide for our families each day, while others have the leisure to enjoy life with few anxieties. These answers merely lead us into more and deeper questions.

But as we consider the education of our children, one of our highest goals should be to nurture the sense of wonder that they have as young children. This natural sense begins to fade away at a very young age. I notice that my seven-year-old is already beginning to lose some sense of wonder. By the time he’s a teenager, it will be gone altogether. That is, unless somehow we can stand in the gap. Jesus said that no student can be greater than his master. This means, at least, that restoring wonder to our children, or nurturing it to continue to flourish, begins with us having wonder restored in our own hearts. This requires us to see and behold our world with refreshed and renewed eyes. This requires us to see the world again as it actually is, the way that we used to see it when we were children, rather than the world that we have created in our adult minds that we think suits us better. We must become omnivores of God’s creation around us.

ten ways to destroyIn his brilliant “How-to” satire, 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Anthony Esolen describes how wonder can be compromised in the things of everyday life. He writes (satirically, of course),

“One way to neutralize this fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then to act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing. Persuade a child that a giraffe he sees once every couple of years is really impressive, but the wren on the fence post is only a drab little bird—though he warbles out a love song in the morning, cocking his stubby tail, and is in general one of the bravest and most cheerful of birds. Persuade the child that the Grand Canyon is worth seeing, or Yellowstone National Park, or Mount Rushmore, or the breakers of the ocean on the Florida coast. But ignore the variations of hill and valley, river and pond, bare rock and rich bottom soil, in your own neighborhood. Children should be encouraged to think they have “done” rivers, or bird sanctuaries, or botanical gardens, in the way that weary tourists are proud to have done Belgium.”[2]

Wonder is not restored by expensive vacations or pricey admissions tickets. On the contrary, wonder is restored in backyards. Wonder is restored on car rides to school. Wonder is restored reading stories of peril and near-destruction in The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or Treasure Island that you read with your children before bed. But most importantly, wonder is restored in the hearts of your children when it is restored first in you.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (New York: HarperCollins), 533.

[2] Anthony Esolen, 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2013), 37-38.

Earth Photo from Apollo 17, wikipedia.com.

Stars Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

One thought on “How to Walk Upside Down, Sideways, and at an Angle (Tread the Dawn Series)

  1. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is prob my fav in the Chronicles series. I forgot all about the part you have referenced. I wonder what the man who was rescued out of the darkness thought about the marvel of his world once he came back into the light.

    Liked by 1 person

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