Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I wrote a poem long ago in which Vladimir Zworykin was the last great god of Greece. He lived on Mount Olympus long past the departure of Zeus and the other gods. His purpose was revenge and retribution against Man for discarding the old gods.

Zworykin, if you don't recognize the name, invented the kinescope, the cathode-ray tube... the picture part of television. Philo Farnsworth also invented the technology, perhaps even earlier... but I ask you, whoever heard of a greek god named Philo? Anyway, I'm reading "Surprised by Joy" by C.S. Lewis which Lewis wrote to trace his path from a child, through atheism and back to Christianity. I heard from a reader (thank you) that Lewis never became a Catholic although he seemed to clearly accept as true nearly everything Catholics accept.

I am at once jealous and horrified at Lewis' education. Horrified because he and his brother were alone much of their early lives and left to their imagination and each other. They were also shipped off to boarding schools, one of which was run by what can only be described as a mad man. Jealous because Lewis was so well read and so well taught... one can hardly compare his education with what passes for education today. As a child, he read books and authors like Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Darkness and Dawn, the Gladiators, H.G. Wells, Sohrah and Rustum, Tamburlaine, Paracelsus and on and on. But too, he read them without the curse of having seen the movies on television, Zworykin's revenge. So much brighter must those stories like "Ben Hur" and "The Gladiators" read when your mind is young and uncorrupted with Charlton Heston or Russell Crowe.

All this comes to mind because I'm reading C.S. Lewis and because I watched "A Wrinkle in Time," Madeline L'Engle's classic young adult story, on TV last night. Because I have read the book so many times (even reading it to my own children as a bedtime story), I could only be disappointed. There is no way the glory of Mrs. Whatsit as a star or a winged Centaur in the imagination of a child can be filmed. There is no way the image in one's mind of Big Sister, Meg, in the center of universal darkness shouting out, "I love you Charles Wallace, I love you," can be realized... just as there is no way to portray the big-E Evil cloud that stalks the Earth with the horror a 3rd or 4th grader can instill within it.

Mel Gibson did one great job directing and filming "The Passion of the Christ," but how lame must that movie be, in the end, in the mind of one who has never read the the Bible compared to those who have? How much richer would Gibson's "The Passion" be if we had all studied the classic pieces of art he used to block his scenes? How close are we to that final revenge of the greek gods against humanity when we and our children watch life portrayed for hours and hours a day instead of living it, when we have books imagined for us instead of reading, when it starts becoming difficult to tell the difference between the news and fiction.

It isn't too late, at any stage in your life, to start. It's not too late to fight back against that Evil cloud. Read. Turn off the TV. Listen to the rain and read.

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