In C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce Why Is There Hard Grass and Undrinkable Water?
Question from a reader:
I am reading The Great Divorce and am wondering if there is any significance to the "hard grass/undrinkable water" in his Heaven scene where the spirits are discussing their past. It is a bit odd, but I love Lewis and I am trying to keep an open mind. Where he was going with this – or was it purely imagination?
Answer from Randy Alcorn:
In The Great Divorce, Lewis sees everything in heaven (grass, rocks, trees, water, etc.) as “much solider than things in our country.” It’s all heavy and hard, like diamonds—the character can’t pluck a flower or pick up a leaf. Grass is sharp and hard. All this is in contrast to the people coming from earth who are transparent and ghostly. They have thought of their world as the “real” one, the one with substance, while thinking of heaven as the less substantial spirit world. They learn, or those with eyes to see learn, that they had it backwards. Heaven is the land of substance, earth the land of shadow. Earth is full of not only shadows, but illusions and pretentions, Heaven is reality itself. To fit into Heaven they must become not less solid, but more, they must move from being phantoms to having weight and substance. They are shallow people who must become deeper, and with that weightier. If they are not changed, Heaven will have no appeal to them. They cannot live there, and neither will they want to.
In the afterlife, and hopefully this started back in their lives on earth, they must walk away from the vagaries and speculations they’ve entertained in order to see and to love Truth itself. To walk effortlessly on heaven’s grass, to drink its water and eat its fruit, they must become solid, weighty, real, in touch with ultimate and eternal realities. These pictures may symbolize the need for ultimate resurrection, but in The Great Divorce it has more to do with coming to terms with the deficiency in self that must be transformed in order to experience and enjoy the wonders of heaven. Which are indeed wonderful, but which necessitate transformation in order for us to enjoy them. I would connect it with God, partly through the weight of suffering and service in this life, weaning us from all the ephemeral and superficial notions of the world, and bringing us in touch with the eternal substance of God and His people and His kingdom.
Sometimes only Lewis knew what he was thinking, but these are my impressions. J