This is a bit longer of a post than I normally do, but if you have the time, it will be worth it.
I begin with a somewhat long quote from C.S. Lewis:
“‘Whisht, now!’ said my Teacher suddenly. We were standing close to some bushes and beyond them I saw one of the Solid People and a Ghost who had apparently just that moment met. The outlines of the Ghost looked vaguely familiar, but I soon realized that what I had seen on earth was not the man himself but photographs of him in the papers. He had been a famous artist.
‘God!’ said the Ghost, glancing round the landscape.
‘God what?’ asked the Spirit.
‘What do you mean, “God what”?’asked the Ghost.
‘In our grammar God is a noun.’
‘Oh — I see. I only meant “By Gum” or something of the sort. I meant … well, all this. It’s…it’s…I should like to paint this.’
‘I shouldn’t bother about that just at present if I were you.’
‘Look here; isn’t one going to be allowed to go on painting?’
‘Looking comes first.’
‘But I’ve had my look. I’ve seen just what I want to do. God! — I wish I’d thought of bringing my things with me!’
The Spirit shook his head, scattering light from his hair as he did so. ‘That sort of thing’s no good here.’ he said.
‘What do you mean?’ said the Ghost.
‘When you painted on earth – at least in your earlier days – it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came. There is no good telling us about this country, for we see it already. In fact we see it better than you do.’
‘Then there’s never going to be any point in painting here?’
‘I don’t say that. When you’ve grown into a Person (it’s all right, we all had to do it) there’ll be some things which you’ll see better than anyone else. One of the things you’ll want to do will be to tell us about them. But not yet. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed.’
There was a little pause. ‘That will be delightful,’ said the Ghost presently in a rather dull voice.
‘Come, then,’ said the Spirit, offering it his arm.
‘How soon do you think I could begin painting?’ it asked.
The Spirit broke into laughter. ‘Don’t you see you’ll never paint at all if that’s what you’re thinking about now?’ he said.
‘What do you mean?’ asked the Ghost.
‘Why, if you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.’
As I was reading this in The Great Divorce, I re-read it and re-read it and re-read it…
It began to blow me away with insight.
The Ghost was interested in the country only for what it could offer him (that he could paint it).
If I’m authentic here, I must admit that at times I am the Ghost. I can tend to see things, at times people, for what it/they can offer me. And in the midst of this, I sacrifice the ability to truly “see.”
I have missed having great friendships perhaps, I have missed enjoying nature at times, I have sacrificed authentically knowing myself even…because I didn’t choose to simply “be” with people.
I overlooked being curious, being present, being all there, in each moment.
This passage from the book has compelled me to make the following commitments:
1. Be curious from the inside out (go deep in reflecting with myself and my inner conversation).
2. Be curious about others.
3. Show up and simply be present in the moment.
4. See things for what they are.
5. See people for who they are (rather, perhaps, than my agenda or for what they might offer me).
6. Be aware of my interpretations and judgements and choose how I will respond to them.
7. Authentically bring to light the things that I might see better than others (live out my strengths, talents, and passions.
Will you join me?