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By Forrest Hershberger
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'Good' Is Not Always 'Safe'

 

March 24, 2021 | View PDF

Several years ago I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the first in The Chronicles of Narnia series. Actually, that is probably when I reread the classic tale.

Later I watched the movie. It is the kind of story that is overwhelmed with imagination and fantasy, and a handful of life lessons. I was struck by the imagination of the story line and of the children. A whole world of fantasy and adventure lie within the grey world of the rainy London estate where they were residing. All they had to do is find it. However, to find it they had to be children. They had to let their games of hide-and-seek or whatever version they were playing take them to places they aren’t supposed to be. They let their curiosity and enjoyment of the game carry them to unexpected adventures.

First one, then the next ventured into the wardrobe, which resulted in completely changing their definition of reality.

I was recently reminded of the misconception that comes with so much of life. For as much as Hollywood gets, and even earns, criticized, sometimes it gets it right. Good is not always nice, nor should we expect it to be.

The scene is Lucy, the youngest of the children, about to meet the lion Aslan. Her question is simple, that of a child’s limited knowledge: is he safe? It’s a legitimate question. Even today, lions are seen from behind cages, movie screens or some kind of safe boundaries, or safe boundaries are sought in response to the animal’s dangerous reputation.

But Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, referring back to the story, had a slightly different take on it. They introduce Aslan as a personality who breaks social standards and expectations. He is not safe -- nothing is directly said about being dangerous -- but he is good. Good, and not safe in the same person.

Maybe we need to take the question apart. Is Lucy asking if Aslan is safe to her, if he provides safety or if he is safe as opposed to dangerous? Is she afraid to approach him, based on what she understands and has been told about lions, and thus needs reassurance? Or is Lewis dismantling the belief that safe and good are related words?

I’m also struck by this subtle message toward society that we need to be nice, often interpreted as safe, and good. It is implied that if you are good you are also nice. Hollywood gets it right because when heroes are seldom made of 120 lb street sweepers who accept no and move on. When life gets out of control, when a hero is needed, the street sweeper is a humble man hiding his physical ability in shabby work clothes, hoping to deny his skill set. He becomes good when he allows his skill set to be used for good.

Safe is for the person who chooses to stay within the boundaries he or she understands. The horizon is something for dreams and poets, not for being safe. Safe is when we let fear of the unknown squelch that voice inside our souls that yearns for something more.

I really wonder when we arrived at the point of our safety is someone else’s responsibility? When did we decide our only real choice in living is to safely stay to ourselves?

I’ve referenced movies over time that are almost prophetic of today. Think how many movies people got tired of sensing no hope and left safety, only to find they aren’t going to automatically die. They encountered danger, but they lived each moment. They felt their heart race at the creak of a door instead of remembering the door hadn’t been fixed.

Good and safe do not always share the same space. Maybe the part that makes the Aslan character paradoxical is to meet him means stepping out of your safety, your comfort zone.

Depending on the context, it is OK not to be safe, but strive to be good.

 

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