I finished Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week and ever since then, walking around in the Wilmington sun, it's all I can think about. It was such a good book and there were so many moments reading when I had to put the book down for reeling. One moment in particular was when the character Eustace becomes a boy again. He'd been turned into a dragon and as he takes off his skin again and again, slides out of each layer it's never quite enough. Aslan tells him he'll have to do it for him and so he does and it hurts but afterward he washes himself and all of the dragon is gone but all that dragon made him into is still there. I think about how true this is for life, of the part in Blue Like Jazz when Don Miller talks about dying to oneself again and again every day, peeling back our skin but not being able to step out of it on our own. Then suddenly you're a boy again, but more fully boy then you've ever been before and less of a dragon than you were even before you turned into one.
But it's the bright sun that keeps bringing back to this book. The characters are on a ship sailing for the very edge of the world, as far east as they can go. And the closer they get to the end, the bigger the sun gets, the brighter it is. Their eyes grow stronger so that eventually they're able to look right into the sun and into all the light all around them--it uses specifically the word strong several times. They become stronger, more able to withstand and take in all the light.
As I was walking home from campus the other day it was so bright I could barely open my eyes at all and ended up going most of the way with my head bent down like walking into wind. My eyes have always been more sensitive to light (either that or I'm just so used to squinting that they don't know what to do all the way open), and I thought about how when I step outside the word you might use is adjust. My eyes adjust to the light.
I don't know if C. S. Lewis meant to differentiate between growing stronger, being better able to bear things and adjusting, but I keep thinking about it. How those of us who grew up through hard stuff and are functioning adults will laugh sometimes and say that we're just well-adjusted. But there's such a huge difference in that choice of words. My eyes have adjusted to the sun, so I am able to bear its brightness better--in this sense you could argue there's little difference between becoming stronger and better adjusted. But the sun doesn't stay as it is as they sail farther east. It becomes bigger and brighter and everything is shining, but still they can bear it.
So you have a pair of eyes adjusting the brightness of the sun and as long as that sun doesn't get any brighter, you can take more of it as it is, little by little. But if your eyes grow in strength even while the sun grows in brightness--well, this is so much bigger. "They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before... And next morning, when the sun rose, now five or six times its old size, they stared hard into it and could see the very feathers of the birds that came flying from it."
When I think about growing through the things we live through, I want so much for it to be like this. I don't want it to be adjusting to a fixed thing, but rather becoming more able, becoming better beholders as the things around us grow more as well, as there becomes more to behold.
"They could see more light than they had ever seen before." I think it's something like this. I think it's meant to be so much like this.