TELOS A WILLIAMs Journal of Christian Discourse
Flight Afraid of forever ‘Here we may love truly’
Shirley Li ’13
Chih McDermott ’14
Rachel Durrant ’13
Esther Cho Julia Damion Shana Dorsey Rachel Durrant Amber Ellis Heng Chao Gu Danielle Guerrero
Todd Hall Kelsey Ham Bryan Jones Caleb Kim Shirley Li Chih McDermott David Nolan
We are indebted to College Council and the Cecil B. Day Foundation.
Jasmyne Grismore ’15
Shana Dorsey ’14
Heng Chao Gu ’14
Telos is the Greek word for “purpose,” “goal,” or “fulfillment.” For us, telos represents a direction that can only be found through God.
The Williams Telos is a journal dedicated to the expression of opinions and perspectives informed by the Christian faith. LAYOUT EDITOR
Si Young Mah ’14
Samira MartinhagoCustodia ’13
Sonia Cheung ’16
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, questions, donations, or submissions. Cover photo by Kelsey Ham Edited by Si Young Mah Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible verses are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
Feixue Gong ’16
Amber Ellis ’15
Eduard Ciobanu ’15 All pieces in The Williams Telos are the contributors’ own interpretation and understanding of the Christian faith, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Telos board or the publication as a whole.
t h e WIL L IA MS
Esther Cho ’13
Sarah Wu ’16
Marcel Brown ’15
Doris Mbabu ’15
TELOS Spring 2013
t he WI L L I A M S
Eternity in the moment
David Nolan assesses understandings of time in Augustine, Nietzsche, and our modern day.
Longing for His appearance
Shana Dorsey rejoices in the staggering promise of heavenly reward.
‘Here we may love truly’ Shirley Li explores the reality of heaven in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.
My chains are gone
Chih McDermott reimagines the arc of Milton’s Paradise Lost in terms of his personal journey to faith.
Letter from the editor
With open palms
By Todd Hall
By Julia Damion
By Esther Cho Spring 2013
t h e W I LL IA MS
Afraid of forever Danielle Guerrero affirms her growing trust in the loving God of her childhood.
Lessons from a tree Caleb Kim entwines the agelessness of an olive tree with the hope of future renewal.
“Swept Away” by The Avett Brothers
You should know
By Amber Ellis
By Heng Chao Gu
By Rachel Durrant
Sons of the Resurrection By Shana Dorsey
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Letter from the editor Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring. Hosea 6:3 I am afraid of death. I don’t mean in the buried-six-feet-under sense. Rather, I am afraid of dying by way of the American dream: to wake up some day in a life so comfortable that I have forgotten my dreams. Perhaps I’d be happy – enough, anyway. But I fear that in some important way I’d no longer be seeking after a life that is truly meaningful. I imagine that I’m not the only one at Williams who is afraid of a slow death by complacency. Part of this, I think, has to do with our desire for intellectual gain. We are taught here to hunger and thirst after knowledge, fostering a quality Samuel Johnson names genius: “a mind active, ambitious, and adventurous, always investigating, always aspiring; in its widest searches still longing to go forward, in its highest flights still wishing to be higher; always imagining something greater than it knows, always endeavoring more than it can do.” Always there is more to be found: thus we are perpetually in quest for more profound knowledge in still further realms. I think we all possess this desire – but I wouldn’t call it genius, for I do not believe that it is at its heart an intellectual hunger. Academia, seemingly limitless to us, is yet but finite. Instead, in the Christian worldview, our deepest desire is to “know the LORD,” who is eternal. To know the eternal God is hardly imaginable: we may press on to the knowledge of him for the rest of time and eternity and find that there is still more to know. And yet he is near. If we would but seek him we would find him and, indeed, know him: for his coming is as sure as the dawn. Thus the paradox is that eternity both lies within our grasp and yet is an ever-moving, forever desirable destination. Our hearts’ hunger is ever being filled and ever being deepened – to our great joy. All of our pieces this semester touch upon what it means to know God, sometimes as a subject of lofty speculation and other times as a childlike pursuit. David Nolan, after examining Nietzsche and our modern day frameworks for inconsistencies, points us to Christ as the fixed center from which to measure meaning. Shana Dorsey, in both her pieces, stirs up our highest hope – “to see him” – and reminds us that its fulfillment is near. Heng Chao Gu imagines a world where fear keeps us confined to what we know, when it is the unknown that has everything to offer us. At the end of the day, our desire to find that which is everlasting is a fundamental part of our humanity: “The LORD has set eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We will never be satisfied with the temporal because we were created for what is eternal. And even though we are always in eminent danger of ‘settling’ for less each day, we are saved from complacency by the eternal God himself. All the time, he continually quickens our hearts to desire eternity: “Oh, that we might know the LORD!” press on, Shirley
Swept Away [Sentimental V by The Avett Brothers Well, you send my life a-whirling / Darling, when you’re twirling / On the floor / And who cares about tomorrow? / What more is tomorrow / Than another day?
I see the end of the rainbow / But what more is a rainbow / Than colors out of reach? / If you come down to my window / And I climb out my window / Then we’ll get out of reach.
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It was a muggy night with summer’s hot breath filling my lungs and ears. The sticky night made my thin cotton shirt drape heavily on my shoulders. I didn’t mind, though. I suppose I could have moved away from the fire, but I didn’t want to. Something about being within its circle of light with all my friends made me choose to stay, despite the heat. Campfires do funny things to people. Somehow there’s this unspoken rule people seem to follow that says things should get deep when you’re near one. So naturally we talked about a lot of things – politics, what it’s like coming back home, what it’s like building a new life in college, the ache of nostalgia, the eagerness for the future, the works. I was only half paying attention when one of the guys on the other side of the fire started talking about how Jesus had ruined his life in college. This caught my attention. After all, we were sitting in the heart of the Bible Belt, and had been raised on the Southern principle that Sundays are meant for church and fried chicken, neither of which ever demanded much more than blind consumption. Church wasn’t a place where Jesus ruined anything. Church was a place where you went because Jesus was the thing you could believe in to go to heaven. But my friend spoke of Jesus as a person who demanded a lot, demanded everything in fact, and messed up people’s plans and ambitions and worldviews. This Jesus was new to me. When you swept me away / Yeah, you swept me away. ________________________________
I pressed my heels into the cool, rich dirt as blades of grass popped up between my toes. I thought about this new Jesus and all he demanded, but also all he promised, and it seemed much more interesting than the doctrinal checklist Jesus I’d known from Sunday School. My friend, after all, was pretty happy about how Jesus had “ruined” his life. In his description Jesus came so much nearer than just promising a pleasant eternity in heaven. Heaven had always felt like a nice sentiment, but it seemed to skip much of what Jesus said and did; he walked with people, ate with people, gave all he had to people, and he expects the same from us. Somewhere between laying down our privileges, becoming less,
Version] A fictitious retelling and spiritual interpretation of a romantic song by Amber Ellis and loving more, he invites us to live along with him, experiencing God’s kingdom on earth in preparation for heaven. Somewhere, heaven stopped being the goal, and being with Jesus in God’s kingdom took its place, whether on earth or in heaven. Then you swept me away. / Yeah, you swept me away. ________________________________ You said with such honest feeling / But what’d you really mean / When you said that I’m your man? / Well how my darling can it be / When you have never seen me / And you never will again? I leaned back in my chair to process these thoughts as the wind swept my hair over my face. It was a tough realization to make, because it made things much more difficult. I liked churchy Jesus. He was easy to figure out, and our contract was clear. If I did my part, he’d do his, then I’d go to heaven, and he’d get to see me there. Hopefully I’d help a lot of people along the way, feed them, get them to believe the right stuff, too – easy. But new Jesus didn’t work that way. New Jesus wanted everything and wanted me to trust him with everything. Doctrine is easy; theology is easy; and rules are easy. A trusting relationship with a supernatural God-human that lived thousands of years ago is really hard. It doesn’t even really make sense. Besides that, he would want to completely change many things about me, like my greedy and selfish heart, and I didn’t know if I could handle that. I wasn’t even sure if he knew what he was getting himself into. My friend’s Jesus wasn’t a man who had a list of obligations for me to fill, but a man who would dig down into my heart and would root out all of the shameful things I kept hidden. If this was all true, I wasn’t quite sure how he’d react once he found them. That you swept me away. / Yeah, you swept me away. ___________________________
“Somewhere, heaven stopped being the goal.” Life is ever changing but I will always / Find a constant and comfort in your love. / With your heart my soul is bound / And as we dance I know that heaven can be found. The fire died down and so did the conversation as the thunder started rolling over the hills. A few soft drops patted me gently as we scurried inside. The heavy claps broke my train of thought, and when it returned, my friend was talking about the incredible love with which Jesus must have made his rather unsettling demands. He knew all along that we wouldn’t be able to meet them, but he still made them. He still came after us in a pursuit of love and compassion, promising to help and change us. Even knowing we couldn’t do it, he wanted to share his kingdom with us – to be with us. I left that night wary of this new Jesus but intrigued and curious nonetheless. He was someone whom I thought I might like to spend some time with and get to know a bit better. Well, you send my life a whirling / Darling, when you’re twirling / On the floor / And who cares about tomorrow? / What more is tomorrow / Than another day? When you swept me away / Yeah, you swept me away. / Yeah, you swept me away.
Amber Ellis ’15 is a biology and geoscience major from western N.C. She loves playing her banjo, sipping Cheerwine, listening to Dolly Parton, and living in Southern Appalachia. Spring 2013
With open palms
Todd Hall â€™16 is a first-year student from Jersey City, N.J. In addition to drawing, he likes to decorate cakes.
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Eternity in the moment Augustine and Nietzsche on meaning and time “We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it’s one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment ________________________________ Since the development of semi-standardized prayer, every liturgically minded Christian has proclaimed, in some form or another, the doxological annunciation, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.” The Christian repeats, day after day, the preeminently important fact that God, in his unchanging goodness, entered into time without compromising his eternal perfection. From the standpoint of eternity, God makes the “now” part of the “forever” and embeds the passing moment with eternal significance. However, the famous philosopher Frederich Nietzsche challenged the validity of this understanding of meaning in time, arguing that by its reliance on an ideal realm to justify our non-ideal existence, Christianity engenders “an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental prerequisites of life.” Nietzsche instead proposes a affirmation of the moment through recourse to the “opposite ideal: the ideal of the world-affirming, exuberant, and vivacious man, who has not only learnt to compromise and arrange with that which was and is, but wishes to have it again AS IT WAS AND IS, for all eternity.” Our willful affirmation of the moment opens the door for self-created meaning through the imagined affirmation of the moment for eternity. Where Christianity moves
by David Nolan
from an assertion of eternity to the meaningfulness of the moment, Nietzsche moves from a moment to that moment willed by us ad infinitum, forever. Most of us, in some way or another, fall somewhere between these two understandings of time and its connection to meaning. Especially in collegiate culture, momentary happenings exist as important entities in themselves. Take, for example, the short-lived vengeance with which the phrase “You only live once” (YOLO) hit the digital age. It’s the same adage blared across the title pages of self-help books and neon nightclub lights: “Live in the moment!” The implications of both these statements purports to be an encouragement to “let go,
“There is a massive disconnect between the long-term and the short-term, a temporal chasm that few of us can bridge.” have fun” – at its most severe, the childish “no regrets!” But really consider the poles between which most of us balance our understandings of meaning in relation to time. On one extreme, the spontaneous trumps the planned. On the other, career paths project out in time, and the newly graduated march in a linear trajectory towards a six-figure salary. For diversion, they maybe sprinkle in nights out, travel, and other things for the sake of amusement. Many of us are like this: we are goaloriented, looking ahead to a better future for ourselves and the world. Yet, at the same time, we try to fulfill our most basic desire for happiness right now. There Spring 2013
is a massive disconnect between the long-term and the short-term, a temporal chasm that few of us can bridge. Like the donkey following the carrot hanging from a stick attached to his head, we may never arrive either at that future goal or at a real appreciation for right now. We now have three ways to understand the meaning of the moment. Nietzsche predicates meaning on the strength of human will, Christianity finds it on the infusion of temporal with the eternal, and our culture (which includes us) probably falls somewhere between the two. We cannot but choose one of these options, for our actions will point towards our decision even if we do not voice it. If we, emboldened by a culture of inconsistency, aim to live as that donkey, we will simply become pawns of our age’s ethos.
“Nietzsche predicates meaning on the strength of human will, Christianity finds it on the infusion of temporal with the eternal, and our culture (which includes us) probably falls somewhere between the two.” If we try to live as Nietzsche proposes, we face quite a difficult prospect. Nietzsche conceives of Christianity as a false idealism that nihilistically denies meaning in this world. Nihilism – the assertion of meaninglessness – can only be escaped if we can find meaning in this world, and Christianity, Nietzsche thinks, certainly does not do this. Christianity is a symptom of man’s desire to will but not the solution to that drive. By positing an ideal and empty realm (heaven, life after death), man shows that he “prefers to will nothingness, than not will.” Nietzsche argues, instead, that we should affirm our lives here and now: “This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain
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and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence… The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” In order to break free of the constraints of morality and idealistic nihilism, we need to truly imagine a life of eternal repetition. Only when we can imagine that and say yes and yes and yes, again and again, by sheer force of our will, have we managed to come to true freedom and a meaningful moment. This does not seem possible, and indeed, Nietzsche hypothesizes the Ubermensch – the Overman or Superman – as the only person for whom this model would work. We haven’t yet reached the will of power or height of affirmation that Nietzsche calls us to pursue. But perhaps this isn’t real affirmation. Perhaps the impulse to derive purpose in life from one’s own strength of mind disallows the possibility of discovering a source of meaning that really is outside of the realm of our own will and cognitive abilities. To respond to Nietzsche’s criticism, and indeed to contemporary understandings of time and meaning, the Christian needs to point out a model for a life that partakes in its own positive affirmation, but in the right way. Almost sixteen hundred years ago, St. Augustine attempted to do just that. In his spiritual autobiography, Confessions, he worries a great deal about time and meaning. He observes that we can hardly talk about time at all, for the future is simply current expectation, the past constantly falls behind us, and the present has no extension at all. Everything changes constantly, there is no stability, and our search for a fixed basis for self-understanding seems doomed from the get go. We can see that Augustine did not weakly pine for a future after death; rather, he wants to be “moving not towards those future things which are transitory but to ‘the things which are before [him],’ not stretched out in distraction but extended in reach, not by being pulled apart but by concentration.” Contrasting future aims with his current mental state, Augustine desires to be in the present so strongly that he sees all diversions as dead ends. But the question remains how we ought
to understand the possibility of continuity within the human life when we experience our lives as so temporally distended. Christianity’s primary claim is that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It is not surprising, then, that Augustine finds a remedy to the meaning of time within the Incarnation. “By him you sought us when we were not seeking you,” Augustine writes. “But you sought us that we should seek you, your Word by whom you made all things including myself, your Son.” God seeks us through the Word made flesh; he entered time in an eternal form. Nietzsche’s dismissal of the ideal realm falls flat in the face of the ideal’s entrance into the world. If only we can meet eternity in the moment, then time becomes a channel for purpose rather than an anchorless flood of disconnected instances. Augustine gives a number of examples whereby a type of union with eternity is possible on earth. Two of the most compelling cases revolve around liturgical practice. Now, it seems unlikely that the set prayers and customs – which many Christians so quickly disparage – could give a great thinker that much comfort. What, really, does liturgy have to offer other than static sounds, ossified formulations, and empty phrases? Liturgy grounds the person in a way of prayer that tends towards eternity. “Suppose I am about to recite a psalm which I know. Before I begin, my expectation is directed towards the whole. But when I have begun, the verses from it which I take into the past become the object of my memory. The life of this act of mine is stretched two ways, into my memory because the words I have already said and into my expectation because of those which I am about to say. But my attention is on what is present: by that the future is transferred to become the past.” The passing of time stretches the mind towards the oncoming future and into the receding past. Yet, in a certain sense, by knowing the whole psalm, Augustine is no longer purely at the mercy of the movement of time. Though still temporal, recitation grounds the mind within a system that includes future, past, and present and which may begin to open the possibility of stability. Another central liturgical practice, the Eucharistic feast (the Mass), commemorates and partakes in the
perfect sacrifice of Christ. “In my poverty,” Augustine declares, “I desire to be satisfied from it together with those who ‘eat and are satisfied.’ ‘And they shall praise the Lord who seek him.’” By both receiving and distributing the body and blood of Christ, Augustine praises and seeks
“God seeks us through the Word made flesh; he entered time in an eternal form.” God. By participating in the shared sacrifice of Godmade-man, he accepts God’s invitation into the liturgical prayer of praise and thanksgiving that continues without end. Liturgy and its rhythms and cycles and sacraments offers the believer real life glimpses at eternity. Both liturgical prayer and the Eucharist reveal God to us in the moment, and both point towards a model for the Christian life. The recitation of an individual psalm, which “occurs in particular pieces and its individual syllables,” acts as a synecdoche for “a longer action in which the psalm is part” – perhaps Lauds or Vespers (traditional morning and evening prayers). This system “is also valid of the entire life of an individual person, where all actions are parts of a whole, and of the total history of the ‘sons of men’ where all human lives are but part.” Human life, though temporal and passing, aims at a larger goal beyond the confines of an auditory individual sentence. It aims at those things that are “extended in reach” but not in time. Our lives, Augustine claims, will be meaningless if we aim at future things (including Nietzsche’s ascetic ideal) because those things, or self-conceptions, will necessarily move into the past. Thus the Eucharist and liturgical prayer are moments in and models for the well-lived life. They are places where we see that “Christ is the Beginning because, unless he were constant, there would be no fixed point to which we could return;” and we discover that a union with the ideal realm can occur at this very instant, right here, right now.
Every moment then takes on much more meaning, for “the kingdom of God is near.” Though there is no isolated moment in which we can hide ourselves from the ever-encroaching future and receding past, temporality becomes nothing to fear; though our agency lies in time, it has atemporal affects. By paying attention to Christ in every moment, we can strive to build a past that inspires a better future; we can build habits of continual conversion. The Christian call is not to enter a static cycle of failure and reform, but to be in a cycle of growth, whereby we come to realize certain branches have died and need trimming, certain motivations are false and need amending, certain lifestyles are broken and need changing – and all this in reference to God. Eternity shows us the meaning in the everyday, and in eternity we find something incredibly personal. Augustine beautifully predicts of God, “I shall find stability and solidity in you, in your truth which imparts form to me.” In the everyday application of this realization, we move from future to past to present and discover the meaning given to our lives here and now.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (Andrews UK,
2012), 411. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, tr. D Smith
(Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996), III, §28. 
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (Wellington: Floating Press, The Jan. 2008), §56.
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, III, §28.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Tr. W Kaufmann (New
Augustine, Confessions, ed. H. Chadwick, (Oxford: Oxford UP,
Augustine, Confessions, XI.ii.4.
Augustine, Confessions, XI.xxviii.38.
Augustine, Confessions, X.xliii.70.
York: Vintage Books, 1974), §341.
Augustine, Confessions, XI.xxviii.38.
Augustine, Confessions, XI.viii.10.
Mark 9:24 (ESV).
Augustine, Confessions, XI.xxx.40.
David Nolan ’13 is a philosophy major from Williamstown, Mass. He loves his hometown, farming, theology, and dinner parties with good company.
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Afraid of forever by Danielle Guerrero
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved worshipping at my church. We’ve always had a great mix of rich hymns and more contemporary praise songs. Many of the songs thanked God for the wonderful gift of eternal life spent in his presence. Eternity was supposed to be an exciting prospect for Christians to look forward to: we would spend forever in a holy place, worshipping the one, true God. None of this seemed real to me, though. Even though I sang and thanked God for this eternal life in heaven, I never really talked about it in Sunday School or thought about it much. As I grew up, however, this theme of eternity came back to me repeatedly. Often at night I had trouble falling asleep and would end up lying awake in my bed for a long time, just thinking about random things. Some nights I let myself be enveloped by the darkness surrounding me. My thoughts would wander to the universe and its endless stretch, moving on to the endlessness of time and to the eternal heaven I would live in one day. I just didn’t know how to wrap my head around this unfamiliar concept of time. In my life, there was a progression to all the actions I took. Whether it was playing a soccer game, completing a paper, or making the most of my life on earth, everything I did revolved around a beginning and an end. I was bewildered by the idea that there is no progress in eternity, that the number of days gone by and to come are the same. Once I started focusing on the foreverness of heaven, panic would set in. I would feel butterflies fluttering furiously in my stomach. I didn’t know what to think or how to even imagine living without the parameter of time. I kept thinking about how once I was in heaven, there would be no end. I would just keep living forever and ever and ever and literally ever!
Sometime in grade school, when I was struggling with all of this, I watched the movie Tuck Everlasting. I hated it. I can barely remember what happens except that there is a family who drinks from a spring that makes them live forever. As I listened to the characters become defeated and worn out by their endless lives, my stomach churned. All I could do was picture myself in their shoes – would I be trapped in a wearisome eternal life too? All of these thoughts would culminate at night when I felt the most alone. When I was overcome with fear of this unknown future, I would run to my parents’ room in tears. Climbing into my parents’ bed, I relished the tangible love I felt by their embraces. With no more than a few mumbled words they knew what was upsetting me. They comforted me, telling me of God’s love and describing the magnificence of heaven. They reminded me that eternal life in heaven was something that I should look forward to instead of fear, because it’s a gift from God.
“I kept thinking about how once I was in heaven, there would be no end.” Sending me back to my bed, my parents would tell me to sing the song “I Can Only Imagine,” by Mercy Me. The song reminded me of the many riches and blessings in heaven. At the same time, I realized that there was no way for me to truly know what eternity in heaven would be like while I was still on earth. The last line, “I can only imagine / When all I will do / Is forever / Forever worship you” was a reminder that I didn’t know what eternity really meant or how it would feel. I realized all that mattered was that I would be in the presence of a perfect and holy God; the Spring 2013
fact that I still didn’t fully understand the progression of time wouldn’t matter because I would be so overwhelmed by God’s presence. Even now there are still times when I feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of eternity and all the unknowns that come along with it. I now recognize my fear as part of a constant struggle to put my faith in God and rely wholly on Him. When I let my fears of eternity take hold of me, I am allowing myself to dwell in my own understanding of eternity, which is a concept that is incomprehensible to me. I become upset because I end up focusing on all of the uncertainties of what life might be like, which is ultimately a fruitless thought process. Instead of putting my faith in God and trusting that his plan is good, I just worry about myself and everything I don’t know or understand.
However, I have slowly begun to trust in God who is in control and gives meaning to everything. He knows everything and cares about all the struggles in our lives, trivial or not. The fact that He even invites us to spend an eternity with Him is crazy. It’s silly for me to focus on the details and specifics, taking wild stabs in the dark at how eternity works. When I stop focusing on my insufficient understanding of time, I am able to trust God’s promise that eternity will be wonderful and beautiful, and that I will be overcome with happiness in the presence of my Savior.
“I realized that all that mattered was that I would be in the presence of a perfect and holy God.”
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Danielle Guerrero ’16 is from Chicago, Ill. She enjoys writing letters, laughing with friends, and being home.
Longing for His appearance by Shana Dorsey
I cannot feel at home in this world filled with death. We walk across earth’s plains with an uneasy familiarity: uneasy because we long for more, familiar because it is all we know. Death haunts us at every turn. Death is in our relationships in the form of bitterness, envy and strife. Death is also in the environment around us: we live amongst natural disasters, sickness and famine. Most personally, death encroaches upon our physical bodies; it is natural that people die, either by age or by disaster.
“We walk across earth’s plains with an uneasy familiarity: uneasy because we long for more, familiar because it is all we know.” Each day, as much as we try to prevent it, we experience a subtler kind of death: we sin, and sin breaks our fellowship with God. Compounding this problem, we are often surrounded by those who misunderstand us. Those who are not Christians can find the Christian life incomprehensible, ridiculous or overly exclusive. Thus we feel discord within us, telling us something is amiss – that this death, this alienation, should not be. We long for better; we ache for our home, but where is it? The book of Hebrews in the Bible says that this world is not our home, that we’re mere sojourners here. For those who follow Christ Jesus, heaven is home; heaven, the place where God the Father dwells; heaven, the place of utter perfection, and purest beauty. C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Weight of Glory”: “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put
into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it… At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” Freshness and purity, akin to the piney smell of an island or the cleanness of scrub, yet reflecting the wisdom of God, permeate Lewis’s words. He insightfully captures the connection between the Christian’s longing for greater, transcendent beauty, one that satisfies only by baptizing – by immersing us completely. As Lewis suggests, we long to slip in to cleaner skin, to have all the dust and filth wiped away. We want to revel in tangible glory, the weight of God that becomes our coating. We must see, inhabit, join to the one who is the source of all beauty, and the most beautiful of all – nay – who is beauty itself. God wraps Himself in light as with a garment and lovingly clothes us each in His robe of righteousness, exchanging our shame with His glory; for eternity we will wear Him, and submerge into the only beauty that will satisfy us. I often wonder what this coming beauty will be like. According to the scriptures, in eternity the salvation of
our spirit and body is complete. No death will contaminate our lives. As Jesus prayed, the Church will be one as Jesus is one with His Father. Therefore there will be no strife, only complete fellowship with one another; society will be healed in its entirety. “They will neither harm nor destroy in all my holy mountain,” God says. Not only
“We must see, inhabit, join to the one who is the source of all beauty, and the most beautiful of all – nay – he is beauty itself.”
will our social relationship be whole, but also our relation to nature. Our environment will no longer be characterized by unpredictability and chaos. Most significantly, our relationship with God will reach perfection. No sin will hinder our communication with Him; we will know Him fully as we are known. To discern with clarity the mind of God, to submerge our beings into His and partake of His divine nature, is the Christian life. We will be as He is: beautiful, holy, and good. To further illustrate the joys of eternity, let us examine Paul’s teachings in Ephesians. He says, “A man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh, this is a profound mystery, but I speak of Christ and the Church.” This, the “profound mystery,” is the wonder, the ravishment, the completion of oneness with God. On earth a husband and wife know each other more intimately than any other, spiritually, emotionally and physically. In heaven we will neither marry nor be given in marriage as we do on earth, but we will be the “Wife of the Lamb.” The Lamb symbolizes the tenderness and purity of Jesus Christ, and amazingly, the Church is the companion God has created specifically for himself; as Eve is the Bride for the first Adam, the Church is the Bride for the second Adam, the Lord our maker, our husband. When we first look into Christ’s face we shall know him exactly as he is. The veil will be lifted from our eyes to gaze upon the sanctifying and perfect light of Christ. Paul says in this life we “look through a glass darkly” – a dusty, opaque mirror. But soon, we shall see face to face, with nothing to obstruct our view. We will only see the flesh and blood face of He
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who is the exact image and representation of God. Then, at last, we will be like Him in all ways. I long for this perfection, not of my own, but of Christ. I long for the day I no longer know sin but know only goodness and righteousness. This is the full break with death and the embrace of life. We desire life, and it is in fact miraculous – through God – that we live. The verse Colossians 3:4 evokes in me this understanding of life: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” I have Him even now, but not to the fullest capacity. I’m waiting for glory – waiting for Christ my life to appear. This heightened awareness of His coming has been a part of my spiritual DNA since I first came to know God during my freshman year at Williams; He has woven the fabric of eschatology – things of the End – into me twisting and threading me into a seamless tapestry that imagines His appearance. Yet He desires all His people to hope and watch for Him and the restoration of life. I am only one voice, one signpost He uses to sound His return. I hope there will be many more. For those who belong to Christ, the desire for His return strengthens us daily. We have an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade away. Unfathomable intimacy with Christ our Lord is near. The suffering we face now, even the daily toil, cannot even be compared with the glory that burns ahead. With this in mind, may our eyes be fixed not on the here and now, but what lies ahead. ______________ 
C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1949).
Hebrews 9:28 (NIV).
Isaiah 65:25 (NIV).
Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV).
Matthew 22:30 (NIV).
Isaiah 54: 5 (NIV).
Ephesians 5:14 (NIV).
Hebrews 1:3 (NIV).
1 Peter 1:4 (NIV).
Shana Dorsey ’15 is an English major and a romantic from Jacksonville, Fla. She loves walks in the Williams sunshine, deep conversations with friends, and the Divine Romance with her God.
Sons of the Resurrection
Time can no longer hold. With the sweep of its bend, Branches fold down, ground breaks, As the land yearns in expectation. Abruptly, the Waters peak. Seizes, the ground, in irregular Rhythms. Shuddering, the mountains brace, As Earth reels on its axis.
For like a dam bursting forth in surges of fire, The righteous path dawns to full day. Effulgent, magnificently Illumined in the sky, Never more to hunger, never more to thirst, From tented death, newly emerged, – thus shed from corruption – The adopted Sons of the Right and Living One. In vestments of white they surround The One called Lord and King. He outstretches his Right Hand, Upholds his mighty Arm, And they flock to Him, ready and on guard. Sword girded on thigh, He sits crowned on alabaster steed, And the Sons charge beside him, never to hunger nor thirst.
by Shana Dorsey For righteousness lies before them, and iniquity behind. The glory of Jesus Christ has brought victory Being Sons of the Resurrection, they shine the Earth in the brightness Of his appearing. Now the parched land opens; Thirsting, it takes in God’s spring, And the still waters breathe Healing into the earth. The Holy Ones desire Feast, and march to the Wedding Supper To take in the delight of the King, The most excellent of the Sons of Men: Such Glory, earthly eyes have never seen. From His Hand they sup of Bread And of His Spirit drink a limpid Spring. Ever radiant, ever life, together They behold the Father, and receive the Kingdom in full. In the Kingdom, praise And jocund merriment threads eternal skies, And worship twines jasper and emerald and diamond Gates. There, the adopted ones rejoice, For Everlastingly and Unendingly, They are: like their Lord, neither can they die, Nor longer they thirst, Being the children of His resurrection.
Shana Dorsey, once ’14, now ’15, is an English major from Jax, Fla. She enjoys fiction, friends, and life with Jesus.
Upward glance Psalm 90 A prayer of Moses, the man of God. 1 Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. 3 You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals!” 4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. 5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. 6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We wither beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your fury. 8 You spread out our sins before you – our secret sins – and you see them all. 9 We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.
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10 Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. 11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve. 12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. 13 O LORD, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. 15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16 Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. 17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!
Julia Damion â€™15 is an Asian Studies major from Falmouth, Maine. She likes chocolate, dogs, and a good laugh. She did not write Psalm 90.
You should know
by Heng Chao Gu
“Hey man. How’s your Tuesday going?” “Same as always. You?” “Same.” “Do you mean same as me or same as always or same as Tuesday?” Shrug. “The same.” “That will be $20.13.” How many years ago now. Moved in Friday, mostly unpacked by Saturday evening, around 7 PM. On Sunday a knock on the door left behind a basket of fruit and a letter written to whom it may concern, all blue ballpoint pen on yellow lined legal pad paper, scrawled in neighborly cursive letters. Back inside, sitting on a box, sweet juice trickling through his gums. A brief confusion when he found not enough hands to adjust his glasses without putting down either the letter or the pear. He read, he saw, “you should know.” “This city is very interesting,” the old man told him a few years later. “I find it almost as interesting as fear. You should know, by now, about its unique gimmickry. The time space thing, that is, of the city. I should have studied physics. Or poetry. I am, however, often mistaken for some kind of incognito warriorpoet: a mentor in disguise; an unfathomable and noble intellect in exile. Which is to say I possess a certain bum-like madness akin to many other brilliant and diseased minds. It’s probably because of the beard. Interchangeable, interchangeable with all those other great truths people imagine must languish in disuse.” The city was a rock upon which the time-space stream broke. Like a pair of recalcitrant lovers, the city
The Williams Telos
regularly made a mockery of the rules of the universe: commoditized them, compressed them, inverted them, discarded them. Reality was divorced, fell to the wayside before a bizarre and flimsy will. It made for a life that yawed wildly over moral, political, religious, emotional, any and all other spectrums. For the last two years now, he himself had volunteered his birthday for use by the City’s Home for Abandoned Boys and Girls. Last Tuesday he’d met his own future at the market, buying ingredients for dinner: some dressy pseudo-Italian affair he knew he’d never make unless under some atypical, probably romantic, duress. A very solid but admittedly boring conversation. “Here, have a carrot. Yes, you may have noticed it’s actually an icicle. What, do you think I own anything? I’m a bum, kid. If I was going to offer you food I’d have eaten it first. Don’t think this detracts from my generous, hospitable heart though. I am extremely chivalrous. At least one modern depiction of ancient and/or medieval values lives on through my posturing. Oral tradition. Superstition and herblore. Fear of the dark. The works.” The old man said this on the day the young man gave him a coat. Because he was kooky. And hilarious. These days, the city was totally and completely dark: nighttime, a frigid Norwegian three in the morning, unanimously selected by sleep-deprived inhabitants as the most ethereal and therefore livable time of day. City Council had deliberated, pulled a few strings, traded weekdays with a small settlement in Svalbard, Norway for a decade-long rental of a 24-7 snow-tinted polar night. The resulting winter had a way of regularly
eviscerating streetlamps at such an alarming rate that the normally laid-back City Maintenance Department reflexively retired itself to Florida, leaving utter darkness in its wake. It was a darkness described by a variety of indoors-dwelling people with terms such as oppressive, crushing, obscure. Hence, this majority of denizens seized the opportunity to hole up, well-
“It was a darkness described by a variety of indoors-dwelling people with terms such as oppressive, crushing, obscure.”
lit, at home. Their worlds shrank, became polyhedral, populated with faces and tangible objects. Conversely, the young man joined the ranks of individuals, regarded by others as crazy malcontents, who regularly wandered the outside: where, on an odd Tuesday, he’d met the old man. “Let me tell you about the dark,” the old man told him, on the day the young man brought him a box of old clothes and a YMCA duffel bag he no longer used. The old man was holed up under possibly the last (barely) functioning streetlamp in town and appeared as though enseamed in a ludicrous, flickering teepee of light. The
streetlamp had acquired a bizarre, pseudo-lunar quality, circumscribing a vaguely disingenuous yellow-orange island in the fathomless abyss; the young man almost felt as if he’d stepped into some bummish backstage of the moon. The old man seemed to be fishing from a snow-encrusted easy chair boiling at the seams with cotton and/or snow into an open manhole. He owned a lot of snow sculptures. “It’s a common fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of death, or something. Fear of an eternity that is simultaneously beyond us and here. It’s worst in this city, of all places. This darkness. It’s everywhere, so thorough. One day it became indistinguishable from the insides of my eyelids, the interior of a consciousness, and life became a wakeless sort of nightmare: the threats of unseen buildings and public domain fixtures looming like birds of prey or the creaking hulls of sundered Spanish galleons. Do you understand that? I don’t know where I’m going, don’t know where I am. I can’t place myself in this darkness, whether I’m running into a wall or peeling off into space. So I’m here. Aside from what I can see, snow falling salt-like within this cone of grimy light, it feels like there’s nothing else. Snow piles up on the sides as though the light forms physical bounds, and every time a part of me trespasses that bound, I spasm backwards, fearing the darkness has truncated a finger or a toe as cleanly as a finished sentence. “Do you understand if you’re going anywhere, in the dark? Does position or context mean anything when everywhere you go is the same? Maybe if I had family to go to, or love, or ambition, or a home, I could stop Spring 2013
thinking about it for a while. Maybe I could drag myself together, fabricate some titanic human will and leave this place. I know this is laughable. My furniture is made of snow. I fish – for fish, of course – through a luminous platform suspended in an endless, infinite oblivion. Naturally I don’t catch anything, which is why I’m a poverty stricken bum, trapped in this wacky, conic diegesis. Cinematic.” On the last day he and the old man ever spoke, he brought the old man a pair of old snow boots and a flashlight he had used as a child. The old man looked at them inquisitively, or blankly. A gradual recognition slowly gleamed in his eye. Gratitude. Or memory. He almost said thank you before he trudged off into that infinite darkness, the unknown: a city where time
“A boundless ocean yawned about him, divorcing him from any and all contexts.” and space mingled like twined hands. But instead, he started with “you should know,” and then told the young man what he should have known. And only then they parted ways. The purity of the darkness defied dimensionalization, so that it seemed simultaneously, crazily immediate and immeasurably distant. A stream of comprehensive reality within which the young man was immersed: an ineffable and sublime force of nature somehow contained within the pathetic scope of human sight. The futility of opening and shutting his eyelids provoked a whimsical suspicion of blindness. While trudging through the mazelike urban landscape, eyes open or shut, he felt his being stretched, diffusing like a swirling dye in a space-time ocean. A boundless ocean yawned about him, divorcing him from any and all contexts. Within the darkness, he could be anybody, be anywhere, be everywhere, as if passing through some ambiguous meta-space subject to his own perception. He was, he is, he will be. But ears and noses numbed by frozen wind-strokes, echoes of snow crunching under booted feet, the quizzical noise of shifting leather coatsleeves invariably dragged him back. Reality. Then, gradually. Wispy outlines, forms as he approached eyes wide open. He was accustomed to the dark. The young man headed for home.
Heng Chao Gu ’14 is an English major from Broomfield, Colo. and is in the process of finding the walls of his life. He is afraid of many things. The dark is occasionally one of them. It’s depthless and unknown, but also the best space in which to dream.
The Williams Telos
* * ‘Here we may love truly’ * Heaven as contested ground in C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce by Shirley Li In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis paints what is perhaps one of the most captivating visions of heaven in the Christian imagination. The story follows Lewis, the narrator, and his companions as they travel from purgatory to heaven on a day trip. When they arrive, heaven is preeminently desirable, flooded with light and a sense of limitless freedom. At the same time, the travelers do not find exactly what they expect. Lewis’s heaven, for all its beauty, does not feature pearly gates or streets of gold, nor does it engender vaguely warm and fuzzy feelings. Instead, Lewis and his companions are filled with fear. Against the bright, heavenly landscape, they are “fully transparent,” merely “man-shaped stains on the brightness of that air”: “Ghosts.” Their insubstantiality contrasts with the solid country around them. The Ghosts’ tread does not bend a single blade of the heavenly grass beneath their feet, and Lewis finds it near impossible to pluck a daisy or pick up a leaf. All of this is deeply uncomfortable and perhaps even threatening. Thus in Lewis’s fantasy, the Ghosts’ understanding of paradise – flawed and made in their own image – is confronted and shattered by the real and solid heaven around them. Instead, the real heaven is made and shaped by Christ. The Solid People, who belong to the heavenly country, experience the joy of knowing Christ and living in the reality of heaven. Lewis calls the Solid People “Bright Spirits,” and indeed they are bright in countenance as well as spirit. Their joy is so brilliant that it is infectious. The Spirit Jack, for instance, makes Lewis “want to dance,” for his face “was so jocund, so established in its youthfulness.”
“Mirth [dances] in his eyes.” The goddess-like Lady Spirit is “clothed” by “the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy,” producing “the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass.” The Spirits possess real joy because it is derived not from their insubstantial selves but from their relationship with Christ. The real, heavenly country is similarly characterized by joy. The first thing we are told is about heaven’s wonderful light and brightness, a visual representation of
“In Lewis’s fantasy, the Ghosts’ understanding of paradise – flawed and made in their own image – is confronted and shattered by the real and solid heaven around them.” joy. Later, Lewis stumbles upon “two velvet-footed lions” “playing some solemn romp.” A waterfall in the heavenly country sounds “like the revelry of a whole college of giants together laughing, dancing, singing, roaring.” Indeed, joy permeates all of Lewis’s descriptions of heaven. The Spirits earnestly desire that the Ghosts might have the joy of heaven too. They come to welcome the Ghosts, who were once the Spirits’ friends or loved ones during their former lives on earth. The Bright Spirits invite, indeed implore the Ghosts to stay in heaven. Yet most of
“The Spirits possess real joy because it is derived not from their insubstantial selves but from their relationship with Christ.” him with a “kiss”: “Darling! At last!” She promises him that “[here] we may love truly,” “for we have no need for one another now.” Previously, they loved each other for their own sakes, because they needed the other. Now that they may love truly, it becomes apparent that the Dwarf does not love the Lady: he merely loves the idea that she needs him. Indeed, the Dwarf does not truly love at all, because his love is not about the Lady but entirely selfish and deformed. He perhaps even wishes that she were miserable without him. The Dwarf, in his self-constructed misery, hopes to drag the Lady with him down into hell, too. The Lady, however, will not be moved and instead confronts the Dwarf about his selfishness and absurdity. She continually invites him to see reality. In order to point
The Williams Telos
the Spirits’ efforts to persuade are in vain. Astonishingly, almost all of the Ghosts refuse to stay in heaven. One woman, immediately after arriving, declares hysterically, “I don’t like it! I don’t like it,” and flees to the bus back to purgatory. Many of the other Ghosts, too, feeling threatened, choose to reject heaven in “bitter... triumph.” In the face of such opposition, the Spirits perhaps do not only invite and implore the Ghosts to stay. Rather, they eagerly compel the Ghosts, pressing them on every front, to stay in heaven so that they might find joy in Christ. If the Ghosts will only consent to try, the Spirits promise their feet will “grow hard enough to walk on the grass,” and eventually they will reach the far-off mountains of “Deep Heaven.” Indeed, Lewis catalogues many episodes where a Spirit attempts to persuade a Ghost to stay. In one such story, the Lady Spirit invites the Dwarf Ghost to “Come and see... Love Himself.” The Dwarf, once her husband Frank, is now hardly a man but a “cold, damp, shrunken thing.” Even so, the Lady welcomes
out his foolishness, the Lady laughs at him, calling him a “great goose” and his talk about love “nonsense.” She compels him, “merriment dancing in her eyes,” to stop pretending to be miserable and join her in “Love Himself.” The Lady’s joy is so contagious that it almost enacts a change in the Dwarf: “For one moment, while she looked at him in her love and mirth, he saw [his] absurdity.” If only he would smile – if only he would laugh along with her and recognize reality – he might become real, too. But the Dwarf – and almost all the Ghosts – refuse to stay in heaven unless they may do so on their own terms. Their terms are, however, a kind of hell for themselves and all those around them. When they find that they cannot change heaven, the Ghosts would rather return to purgatory, an endless grey town where they may imagine everything they want into existence. Thus they contend, along with Milton’s fallen angels, that it is “better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven,” and accordingly choose misery instead of bliss. Tragically, the Dwarf refuses to allow heaven to intercept his self-made hell. The problem, then, is not with heaven per se but with the Ghosts. It precisely as the woman exclaims: the Ghosts don’t like the heaven they find. They refuse to give up their own insubstantial lives in which they are the center and where the entire world revolves around them. The reality of heaven feels harsh and unkind to the Dwarf’s selfcentered claims for love. He refuses to laugh at himself and
see reality, for it is too painful to his pride. In the end, even all of the Lady’s “sweet compulsion” is ineffectual. The Dwarf, having made up his mind to “struggle… against joy,” grows smaller and smaller and finally disappears. Thus Lewis’s fantasy confronts and undermines the very concept of hell itself. All of our illusions about hell are made void, because hell is “nearly Nothing.” Lewis exclaims to find that the purgatory from whence they came is but “a crack in the soil [Lewis] could not have identified it without [the Spirit’s] aid.” In physical size, then, hell spans almost nothing: “All Hell is smaller than one pebble of [Lewis’] earthly world, but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.” The Ghosts’ vivid sensory and emotional experience in purgatory is also unreal. In comparison to reality, it is hardly worth considering: “all the loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies, and itchings that [Hell] contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in heaven, would have no weight that can be registered at all.” Thus the ever-expanding grey town is the ultimate unreality of self-constructed and imagined misery. In contrast, the Spirits’ overarching claim throughout
the story is that “Heaven is reality itself.” It is not, then, as the Ghosts believe, a point of preference as to whether heaven or hell is better. Instead, the Spirits understand that to choose heaven is to live in reality, whereas to choose hell is to live within what is unreal – namely, a self-constructed lie. Although never explicitly stated, it is Christ the Maker who establishes and upholds all that is real. He is central to the fabric of the story: for “in him all things hold together.” Thus heaven’s reality is fixed upon the only one who is real and unchanging: Christ Himself. Christ’s preeminence is especially clear if we examine the Bright Spirits. They are, to Lewis’s envy, fully real, because they live wholly for the sake of Christ. One Spirit, Jack, was once a murderer on earth. Yet when confronted with his evil, he explains that he is no longer concerned with his shame. In fact, he is no longer concerned with himself: “I do not look at myself. I have given up myself… And that was how everything began.” The implication here is at the heart of the Christian life. The Spirit Jack, having put aside himself, now fixes his gaze upon Christ. In looking upon Christ, he looks upon the one fixed and eternal person, from whom all of reality is measured. This point is made clearer when we encounter the Lady Spirit,
“To choose heaven is to live in reality, whereas to choose hell is to live within what is unreal – namely, a self-constructed lie.” who is so beautiful that she is like a goddess. The Lady declares that she has everything in Christ: “‘What needs could I have, now that I have all? I am full now, not empty. I am in Love Himself, not lonely. Strong, not weak.’” Thus heaven and hell, one real and the other not, seem utterly irreconcilable to each other. The physical size of each perhaps helps us to grasp this concept: Lewis notes that the Lady, bright and solid, simply could not fit into hell. Yet how, then, can any be saved? The answer lies at the very center of the Christian gospel. Lewis’s Spirit guide explains that only Christ, who is the greatest, was – and is – able to make himself small enough to enter into hell. Apart from the fixed reality of Christ, we cannot help but live in our self-constructed unrealities. Yet to find Christ is to find heaven itself. Even now, he is near to us, compelling us, with all the Lady’s sweet compulsion, to enter into Love himself. If we will but consent to “come and see,” our feet too will begin to grow hard enough to walk on heaven’s grass.
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 28.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 33.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 35.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 105.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 38.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 49.
Jerry L. Walls, “The Great Divorce,” The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, ed. Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward (Cam bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 251.
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Lewis, The Great Divorce, 29.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 36.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 35.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 111.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 107.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 107.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 112.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 111.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 110.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 112.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 113.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 69. John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler (Great Britain: Pearson Education Limited, 2007), I.263.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 108.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 113.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 74.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 119.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 120.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 120.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 68.
Colossians 1:17 (ESV).
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 33.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 111.
Lewis, The Great Divorce, 120.
Shirley Li ’13 is a math and English major from Cranbury, N.J. She wants to join heavenly lions in solemn romp someday. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jillibee/7096482669/
“I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!’ The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends. His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:18-23
Esther Cho ’13 is a psychology and English major from Queens, N.Y. She misses taking prayer walks with the eternal God in the Eternal City.
Snow-covered ruins Spring 2013
My chains are gone by Chih McDermott “I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.”  C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce ________________________________
The Williams Telos
Last semester I took a course on John Milton, the great 17th century poet, where we focused almost entirely on his epic poem Paradise Lost. Before that class, I had never read Paradise Lost; since the term finished I have been increasingly excited to read it again. But for all its beauty, when I look back on the class what I remember most are not particularly moving scenes illustrating God’s goodness. Instead, I remember the poem’s mock hero, Satan, and the class’ collective reaction to him. I remember being, in our first discussion, shocked, amazed, and incredibly frustrated that my trusted and able peers repeatedly upheld the actions and thoughts of Satan. As a Christian, it horrified me to witness the celebration of the father of lies alongside the refusal of the divinely Good, even if only in the world of the epic! Soon, though, I caught myself identifying and sympathizing with Satan. It was, at first, a very disconcerting realization. And yet, the more we read, the more I reflected that I was familiar with Satan’s Hell. I realized, too, and that my shock told me I was beginning to learn something of God’s grace. While I had an extremely privileged childhood, things rarely felt right. Surrounded with all the physical comforts one could ask for, I was constantly dissatisfied; full of anxiety even though everything, social and otherwise, usually went my way. As I progressed from middle school to high school, I steadily withdrew into myself. Even surrounded with a good group of friends and a loving family, I was desperate for attention but too scared to find it anywhere but in video games, books, and, eventually, drugs. Gradually, any meaning my life once held was replaced with apathy, discontent, and the incessant
search for immediate gratification as a means to placate my growing sense of loneliness. Deep depression took hold in my life until I cared for nothing but the pleasures which, only for a moment, would make me forget my pain. Satan’s Hell is marked by the absence of good. In every way, it is the complete opposite of the Heaven where Satan, as one of God’s former archangels, once dwelt.
Heavenly “bliss” is replaced with “eternal woe.” Within the torments of Hell, “peace / and rest can never dwell... [and] hope never comes.” Even the highest rewards of Hell, such as the demon’s exaltation of Satan, serve only to increase woe. Celebrated with the adoration that he sought in his rebellion from God, Satan’s seat on “the throne of hell” makes him supreme only “in misery.” Empty of all merit, Satan enthroned can only “boast so vain,” holding dominion of only “anguish and doubt and fear and sorrow and pain.” These are the “joys” of Hell: insatiable desire that, when filled, only drags its prisoners lower into ever-deepening suffering. There is nothing worth seeking nor having within Hell, where the only pursuit is evil and the only reward pain. I came to college depressed, looking for a way out of myself and the circumstances which I blamed for my
pain. Despite my anxiety, I made friends easily and was, by all outside accounts, successfully making the transition to college. But the emptiness I brought to Williams kept growing: college failed to fix me. Unable to find peace, I looked for relief in drugs, alcohol, and sexual satisfaction. Mid-way through my freshman fall, I was in no place to be at college and had lost all control over my life. My loneliness reached new depths. My anxiety and fear crippled me like they never had. The pain only grew worse until I did almost nothing but sleep, smoke weed, and drink. And even though even these stopped providing immediate reprieve, over and over, I chose to return to the same habits that only created more emptiness, shame, and fear. Similarly, Hell understood properly in Paradise Lost is not a place, but a malady of the self. True, on waking in Book I, Satan and his legion of fallen angels find themselves in a place identified as hell: “a dungeon horrible” full of “torture without end.” However, Satan immediately
“These are the “joys” of Hell: insatiable desire that... [ever] drags its prisoner lower.”
undertakes an epic journey out of hell to to Paradise – earth. He plans, once there, to tempt the unsuspecting Adam and Eve and leaves leaves with the vain “hope” of finding in Paradise’s proximity to “heaven’s fair light” the power to “heal the scar of... [hell’s] corrosive fires.” But flying through Paradise, Satani is “undelighted [though he sees] all delight.” No matter what Satan had told himself and others about their condition and its solution, a change of place does nothing to alleviate the Hell he always carries. Satan cannot fly “one step” more from Hell “than from himself.” As I sank further into drug use and depression, Christ started to reach out to me. People would strike up conversations with me that turned to God. Sitting in a
friend’s room, I would notice a Bible on their desk and feel an urge to read it. Although I largely tried to ignore these moments, they spurred me to consider the possibility of God’s existence. As I grew more open to that possibility, God started visiting me in little moments at the height of my despair. Utterly high and confused – bereft of all peace as my head reeled around itself – I would look up at a wall, and, just for a moment, the world would hold together and I would be at peace. A moment, but long enough for me to see a beauty, unity, and transcendence in the most mundane things of the world. By November, I lost the ability and desire to deny the existence of a world beyond the material. Soon, I also realized that behind these moments was a caring God: someone offering me a way out of the life I so desperately wanted to leave. Satan, too, can never actually escape from the recognition of God and God’s goodness. Remaining steadfast in his decision for rebellion, Satan, with terrifyingly insidious pride, asserts that his mind “can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Despite his determination, he cannot make hell good. Satan tries to escape to Paradise, but there, the beauty of creation only strikes Satan with the truth of God’s goodness and the wretchedness of his own. In anguish atop a mountain, Satan painfully admits that God, his “good” creator, “deserved no such return” as rebellion. Rather he recognizes with shame that service was not “hard” under God, to whom “praise” and “thanks” are in fact due! Crying out in sorrow, Satan is tormented by how easy, even joyful, it was to serve and place God above himself. As much as he would like to deny the goodness of God and heaven, Satan cannot. In the ensuing months, God often overwhelmed me with this surpassing beauty and infinite love. Overcome Spring 2013
with God’s goodness, I was brought to the brink of acknowledging my wrong and need before God and shown the truth of my wretched state and the failure of my authority. Similarly, Satan can only rightly blame himself for the wretchedness of his state. Recognizing the goodness of God and the life he has left, Satan laments to himself that he “against [God’s] will... / Chose freely what it now so justly rues.” Rather than the judgment of a domineering, unjust ruler, Satan admits that only he is to
“Just for a moment, the world would hold together and I would be at peace.”
blame for the anguish of his Hell. For this moment, Satan is free from the delusions that so plague him, allowing him to see that he, “could obtain, / By act of grace, [his] former state” of bliss. Experiencing mountain moments of my own, I was faced with a decision: continue to follow my will and desires, or turn and follow God’s. In that brief reprieve from my pain and depression, I could see the promise of a life so much better than my current state. I could even hope for one better than I had ever lived. But the offer came with what I then saw as a condition: to be free I would have to admit God, not I, was the head of my life. So too Satan recognizes that a return to his “former state” comes with a condition he is unwilling to accept. He imagines the possibility of repentance. But simultaneously, he acknowledges that there is no path back to God, “but by submission; and that word / Disdain forbids [him].” Satan can never return to God and good because he can never bring himself to submit again before God. I couldn’t leave my futile ways because my control meant everything to me. For the next year and a half, I struggled against Christ. One month I would admit my powerlessness before God and find the strength to stay away from my paralyzing habits. Other times, I chose the belief that my life was mine to do with as I pleased. Each time I turned from
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God, my binge would be worse than the last, revealing new depths of pain and loneliness. Satan’s Hell, too, is perpetuated by the refusal to live under God’s, and specifically Christ’s, authority. With his first words in hell, he declares that “all is not lost” in the fight against Christ because there is one thing which God can never defeat: “the unconquerable will, / ...And courage never to submit or yield.” Yet his willfulness is precisely what torments him. Like an obstinate child, Satan disdains to “sue for grace / with suppliant knee,” admitting before God what he already knows: Christ, and not he, is supreme in power and goodness. It does not matter that all his efforts sink him into an ever “lower deep... to which the hell [he now suffers] seems a heaven.” No matter how terrible his circumstances, no matter how much he recognizes the good of God and the evil of Hell, Satan refuses to submit. For my whole life I had been this same stubborn child, refusing a better way only because it was not my way. As the months went by, the wretchedness of life lived under my authority became increasingly clear, and I started to understand the consequence of my decision. In choosing my authority, I made the same declaration that Satan himself makes: “Evil, be thou my good.” True, I had grown up happily complicit in this declaration, but the harm of evil had not yet manifest. Stuck in an everdeepening cycle of destructive behavior, I knew what that choice held for me. To make evil my good did not only mean finding pleasure where I wanted it; it also implied choosing “infinite despair” over a life of bliss. It was the insanity to make “anguish and doubt and fear and sorrow and pain,” my heart’s desire. Even though my actions would say otherwise, I knew I wanted love, joy, and peace, not the fruits of evil. I wanted good, and the brief moments in which I chose to follow Christ showed me that good was found in God. When this truth clarified, I started, a little bit at a time, to make the decision for God. Tasting the riches a life lived under God offered, it was only a matter of time before I was regularly admitting my wrongs before God and asking for Christ’s grace. Writing now, I have been sober a year and three months and have not once felt as lonely as I used to feel for weeks at a time. In so many ways, I am learning of the abundance of life that Christ has to offer, and of the clarity and joy a life lived in obedience to God contains. Despite what the world still tries to tell me, freedom doesn’t come from doing what I want when I want it.
Slowly God is teaching me that freedom comes from the acknowledgement before Him that my life is not my own. I am Christ’s, and I will rejoice that God is showing me that true life comes by putting down my will and learning to live in and under Christ’s. Admittedly, I do daily forget the joy of submission and in recognizing Christ’s lordship. In these times I find myself angry with God and looking for sympathy with Satan. But as soon as this happens, I simultaneously feel my old life alluring me. Thankfully, what it offers no longer fools me; the life lived for my own pleasure is full of nothing but pain. Often I am still that broken man lost in the denial of God and good. But if the last two years of my life have taught me anything, it is that while I constantly fail and fall short of the glory of God, forgetting one moment the very thing Christ has just taught me, God never falls short of being God. Slowly, but undeniably, Christ is teaching me to cultivate, wherever I go and through whatever I suffer, a “paradise within.”
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.89, IV.92
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.87, I.558
Milton, Paradise Lost, I.61, I.67
Milton, Paradise Lost, I.657-658
Milton, Paradise Lost, II.398, 401
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.286
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.22
Milton, Paradise Lost, I.225
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.43-44
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.45-48
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.71
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.93-94
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.80
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.81-82
Milton, Paradise Lost, V.604-608, V.787-790
Milton, Paradise Lost, I.106-108
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.76-78
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.110
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.110, I.558
Milton, Paradise Lost, XII.586
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (Newfork: Macmillan, 1946), ix.
John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler (Great Britain:
Pearson Education Limited, 2007, revised 2nd ed). II.161. 
Milton, Paradise Lost, I.65-67
Chih McDermott ’14 is an English major from Palos Verdes, Calif. He hopes this piece has helped you see Jesus more clearly.
Lessons from a tree Where do you find eternity on earth? I think we all see eternity in some shape or form, when we have eyes to see it. My most recent sighting of it was an old olive tree. A common feature of old olive trees that immediately stands out is the gnarled trunk. Filled with knots, twists, turns, and holes, the trunk looks weathered and hardened by time – a lifeless armor, the remnant of its previous lives. The olive tree is surprisingly hardy: it is drought-, disease-, and fire-resistant. Even in the case that it is cut down, burnt, or destroyed, the roots form young sprouts that will grow again into a new tree. The particular tree that I saw was about 900 years old, much less than an eternity. Still, its countless tangled, fusing layers of woody shell resembled eternity and testified to a life that witnessed time from the Crusaders to modern day pilgrims armed with cameras. If its branches weren’t filled with green, you could assume it was close to death, weary and tired from its long life. But the smooth, tender new
by Caleb Kim
shoots emerging from the gnarled, aged trunk reassured me that there was life – and not just any life, but one that was capable of regenerating again and again. As we grow older, we start becoming more aware of life’s complexities. Joys and sorrows become more finetuned: we are less likely to be awestruck by stickers and devastated when our balloon animal pops, but we appreciate supportive parents and grieve at injustices around the world much more than before. We develop an armor that protects against life’s edges, but we all must be careful of the disillusionment that accompanies such calluses. Little by little our passions, hopes, and faith can slip away without our noticing, or we may say that there is no more use for passion, no more use for hope, no more use for faith in the real world and thus discard them. But there is always room for regeneration within the most gnarled of wooden shells, if we only look for it. Though life will continue to give me thicker calluses, I pray that I will strive all the more to deepen my passions, heighten my hopes, and solidify my faith to grow past them. But to do so, I need to stop relying on childish platitudes and sharpen my hope and faith with doubts, questions, and weakness. As we sprout new shoots that break through the wooden shell, we will continue to grow and bear fruit – and this is another miracle of the olive tree, the ability to bear fruit for nearly 200 years, after which new shoots grow to become fruitbearers again. As we live and bear fruit, may we patiently wait for the time when all our calluses will be stripped away and we will regenerate for the last time, for eternity.
SI YOUNG MAH
“But the smooth, tender new shoots emerging from the gnarled, aged trunk reassured me that there was life – and not just any life, but one that was capable of regenerating again and again.”
Caleb Kim ’13 is a biology major from Los Angeles, Calif. He will take one or two gap years before attending Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He wants to go camping and fishing sometime soon. The Williams Telos
by Rachel Durrant
Warm water hits my face, and I soak up the moisture with a towel. Two brown, tired eyes stare back at me in the mirror. The wrinkles on the forehead, the sagging skin around the cheeks, and the white patches of hair on the head suggest that age has claimed its victory over the man in the mirror. I shake my head at the sight, and the man, smirking, shakes his head back at me, before breaking out into an uncontrollable round of coughing. I stagger a couple of steps backwards. I am no longer looking in the mirror, but fixing my gaze onto the feeble hands that desperately cling to the marble sink in their attempts to keep me standing. My entire body shudders against the violent coughs, overwhelming me for a long while. It eventually subsides. I grip my chest and take a few moments to catch my breath, before turning out the light in the bathroom, and slowly ease my way back into the illuminated bedroom. I reach my bed and allow my fingers to glide across the colorful bird quilt my wife had made me a few years back. They frolic through the upper part of the sky, where the red birds seem to be headed. I slide the covers back and slip under them. The cold greets me once again. It sneaks its way through my nostrils and into my lungs before it pervades my entire body. My blanket no longer seems to serve its purpose.
And oddly enough, I’m sweating. I do my best to wipe at my forehead with my hand, though my hand is just as damp, and realize that my fever has only grown worse. A shiver runs down my back. I tug the sheets tighter around me, and another coughing fit erupts. My body rolls onto its side, feeling defeated as the coughing takes over. I hate feeling weak, but the pneumonia has declared itself master over my body. What else can I do but surrender? When the fit finally subsides, I remain on my side and curl up into a ball, burying my face into the quilt. Drips of sweat fade into images of trees that stretch skyward. I must be close now. I consider where I’m headed, and soon enough, I panic at the idea of leaving my loved ones: my wife, my daughter, my grandchildren. Tears cloud my vision as the unbearable thought engulfs my mind. Further coughing interrupts my tears. My chest clenches up, attempting to fight off the pain, as sweat begins to mix with tears. I wrap my arms around my stomach and shut my eyes as my head throbs. When the convulsion eventually ceases, I roll onto my back and stare up at the speckled ceiling. The stucco makes me think of the thousands of stars I saw at summer camp as a child. I smile at the memory of the child version of myself sleeping under the night sky, struggling with my fellow campers to configure the stars into different shapes. I begin to wonder how Abraham felt as he looked up into the sky and contemplated God’s promise: “Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be”. I draw my Spring 2013
“Utterly helpless, I do the only thing I know I can do at this moment. I wait for God.” I can’t help but wonder if maybe this is all just a dream. I glance down at my feet and notice a silvery stream floating along beside me. I stoop down to get a closer look. I gasp at my reflection. The man in the stream reaches up to touch
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hands to my chest as I continue to stare up at the ceiling, considering what it must have been like to be Abraham at the very moment when the God of the universe promised to make his offspring as numerous as the stars that flood the night sky. After walking in Abraham’s shoes for a while, I begin to ponder the promise God has made to me: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”. My fears gradually start to subside as I think about this promise that I will never be alone, even when I’m apart from my loved ones. Little by little, a sense of security washes over me. I close my eyes, pull the blanket up to my chin, and picture myself in flight, like the birds on my quilt. Birds always seem to be content, carefree, and constantly rejoicing. I tell myself that I want to be like them. I actually manage to smile as I drift happily off to sleep, my eyes tuning out the bright fluorescent lights in my room and sinking into the dark. I’m going to be just fine. I wake up to find that there’s only darkness. I blink, but nothing changes. I can’t breathe, but for some reason, this doesn’t seem to phase me. What a strange place to be. I’m standing, but I can’t tell what is under my feet. My hands grope through the air, searching, wondering if I really am alone. I am. Utterly helpless, I do the only thing I know I can do at this moment. I wait for God. Suddenly, a small speckle of light appears. It twinkles like a star and slowly invades the darkness across from me, the way the sun interrupts the night sky. I shield my eyes from the brilliance of it, but I gasp at the sight of my hands. Light seeps through them in their translucent state. I stare at them in awe, and then look upwards, the light moving closer to me. It no longer appears painfully blinding to me, but brilliant instead. I look down at my bare feet and notice the darkness beginning to fade into a shadow behind me, until it disappears altogether. I look around, but it still appears as though I’m alone.
his youthful face, a face no longer scarred by wrinkles. And then I see him reach out towards me, in awe of the halo of white light that emanates from his body. I eventually look up, and across from me, I spot a staircase the same color of the stream behind closed white gates. I stand and gingerly place a foot into the river. The warm water collapses underneath the weight of my foot, and a burst of blue splashes up. Startled, I take another step forward, and this time, purple erupts. I laugh as I skip across the stream and reach the landing in front of the gates, puddles of green and pink and yellow following in my wake. The gates open inward once I slow to a stop in front of them. I peer up at the top of the stairs, wondering what awaits me. Then, out of nowhere, I hear a voice resound, descending from the top of the staircase. The ground below me trembles at the sound. I gasp when I hear, “Welcome home. I’ve been waiting for you.” I smile and even laugh at his words. Suddenly, I feel like a bird in flight. Free.
Rachel Durrant ’13 is an English major from Long Island, N.Y. who is obsessed with good books and romantic comedies. She can’t wait to teach English in China next year and hopes to hook her students onto Disney songs by the time she leaves.
Descent of the dove
Satyan L. Devadoss was born in south India, grew up outside of Chicago, and is now a math professor at Williams. He dreams about colorful graphics and large bowls of Graeters ice cream.
TELOS spring 2013
The Spring 2013 issue of the Williams Telos - Eternity