Walking out of that theatre, I was welling with utter silence. I wondered with whom I agreed more: the disillusioned Jew or the dogmatic Englishman. My first guess would be the one my culture believes to be inherently the most correct, which is determined by our modern value of logic. Freud, of course. How could anyone accept the existence of a God when it cannot be proven? When it is impractical, impossible, unsound? How could anyone promote the illogical?
But I knew that wasn’t true. As lonely, vast, impersonal, and uncaring the universe is, it is easy to disbelieve. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. Here’s the overview of the hour-and-a-half play. Freud, a notable psychologist writes C. S. Lewis, a converted Oxford professor with a knack for fairy tales, to his London flat on the eve of the second World War. They debate many things, but, mostly, the existence of a God. They argue in a world before the Holocaust, before the hydrogen bomb, before Bay of Pigs, a man on the moon, the Internet, Woodstock. Theirs is a world with no Beatles, no contact lenses, microwaves, or wireless phones. Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t know the Devil. C. S. Lewis fought in the Great War, and speaks of the horrors of the battlefield.
To give you an understanding of the trauma he felt, I’ll include an excerpt from a popular WWI poem.
Dulce Et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Lewis’ world is one where best mates explode ingloriously mere metres away. While he taught at Oxford, his generation is, quite literally, Lost. It is from his generation that comes the 1920s literature in Paris. From one of his best friends, J. R. R. Tolkien, is borne the Lord of the Rings. He is a man ravaged by war, yet he finds peace in Catholicism, despite being an atheist for much of his young adulthood.
Freud was a clinical man and the father of psychology. Born in the 1850s, the majority of his life had no motor cars. He would die before Hitler fell. As a Jew, his people had suffered some of the worst prejudice of any. Their God is a cruel and unforgiving Old Testament God. Freud publicized the idea that much of our mind’s work happens without our conscious input. He also believed sexual (and romantic) interest originated in society disallowing young children to shag their parents of the opposing sex and blamed almost all mental ailments on sexual repression. In fact, much of his work involved sexual repression. (His wife must have been horrid in bed.) He also did cocaine, relatively common for his time.
So who is right? The delusional post-trauma author or Narnia, or the tortured, perverted doctor? Does a God truly exist? Can we take everything in the Bible to be true? And, if not – why was it written? In the end, does it matter if there is a man in the sky? Religion has reigned for hundreds – thousands of years. Now, depending on your location, science does. Perhaps this is just another faith, a system of beliefs.
However, I question whether it matters if Jesus is a man, a lion, or even real. Whether Allah is any different from Osiris. Because if it moves us, during our painful, short time on Earth, isn’t that enough? When we live our lives on a slow march towards death, we fight a war of our own. Whether we find solace in priests or analytic papers is nonconsequential. And, afterall, both Freud and Lewis are dead now. But neither can tell us who was right in the end.
But I should probably talk about the actual play at some point. Let me say this: you won’t get any answers there. Or any true battles between these two very assertive men. Lewis and Freud’s interactions are almost hindered by how real they are. As soon as true, uncontrolled, cacophonous chaos lurches on stage, Freud is pulled back by his illness. Lewis cannot berate a man on the edge of death and Freud cannot truly raise his voice. Thus, we are left, as always, with a dissatisfying stalemate.
Any attempt to try to reconcile two sides of this particular coin always ends the same way: answerless.
At the end of the day, they don’t live in two different worlds. Although the audience sees two different points of view, the small, dark theatre reminds us that in fact, both Lewis and Freud are living in the same world. And they are arguing two different ways or living – surviving, even, in that one world.
Freud invents his method, explaining the mind and reality in terms of the infant science of psychology, mainly through the vehicle of the unconscious. Lewis turns to religion. Both of these are attempts to answer all of the questions we truly cannot answer.
Where do we come from? Where do we go?
So, perhaps, they do not live in different worlds, but exist on the same stage. One insists there isn’t an audience, one insists there isn’t a stage.
Poem Courtesy Of: http://www.english.emory.edu/LostPoets/Dulce.html
Pictures Courtesy Of: