Over the summer I re-read The Weight of Glory – a great collection of C.S.Lewis’ addresses. In one address, ‘Is Theology Poetry,’ Lewis recounts what he describes as one of the ‘the finest myths which human imagination has yet produced.’ Here it is, heavily abridged:
“the infinite void, matter restlessly moving to bring forth it knows not what. Then, by the millionth millionth chance the conditions at one point of space and time bubble up into that tiny fermentation which is the beginning of life. Everything seems to be against the infant hero of our drama. But somehow life wins through. With infinite suffering, against all but insuperable obstacles, it spreads, it breeds, from the amoeba up to the plant, to the reptile, to the mammal. Dragons prowl the earth. Then comes forth a little naked, shivering, cowering creature, shuffling, not yet erect, promising nothing, the product of another millionth millionth chance. Yet somehow he thrives. The Cave Man eventually becomes the true Man – master of science and nature – controller of his own fate – a demigod who now rules the planet. Man has ascended his throne. And now, mark the final stroke of genius. All this time Nature, the old enemy, has been steadily gnawing away. The sun will cool, the whole universe will run down. Life will be banished. All ends in nothingness as darkness covers all.”
The drama appeals to us – the early struggle of the hero, his conquering against the odds, the tragic ending. A fine fairytale, but, as Lewis would observe, a fairytale nonetheless.