In “The Silver Chair”, the sixth installment of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the four heroes find themselves under the enchantment of the witch queen of the underworld. Her enchantment works to make them sleepy and forgetful as she convinces them that there is no Narnia, no sun, and no such things as lions, let alone Aslan. When all seems lost and the enchantment almost complete, Puddleglum the marshwiggle breaks it by stomping on the fire in the fireplace, the original source of the enchantment. The pain from his burning foot and the disruption of the fire rouses all of the heroes and Puddleglum has this to say to the witch.
“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
This speech is important for many reasons, not the least of which is because it puts Puddleglum on par with our favorite sidekicks like Samwise Gamgee and Ron Weasley. The Marshwiggle’s words give basis for continued application of faith through periods of doubt and lack of feeling.
From my own experience, I find that I am constantly looking for reasons to doubt my faith. If I can find reason for doubt, then I can find reason for acting how I please rather than how I should, because why restrict myself if the promises of righteous living aren’t guaranteed. But, when I ask myself what I truly want in life and not just in this moment, when I look for meaning rather than expedience, the beauty of the promised reality outweighs the possible gains of the current one.
If I were to die and none of it was real, the faith, the striving for a relationship with something higher, if it were all a child’s daydream then my every moment was still filled with the search for meaning. I would rather live in a world with imagined good and evil than one inhabited by only itches to be scratched and distraction from the six feet of soil that awaits us all. The thought that meaning through faith may possibly exist is enough for me to act as if it does.
We all see through a glass darkly. We are all feeling around in the black for something to hold to. We all listen for truth in a world with a million people speaking at once. Doesn’t the lack we feel tell us that there is something more. Maybe instead of trying to fill our emptiness we should listen to it and hear the story it is trying to tell us. The story of more, of higher, the story of wholeness. That is what Puddleglum does when he steps on the fire, that is what we can do if we decide to stop thinking of our physical needs for just a moment and begin the examination of the reality of spiritual longing.