The Last Card

On the other hand, all those doubts which I had felt before I entered the cottage as to whether these creatures were friend of foe, and whether Ransom were a pioneer or a dupe, had for the moment vanished. My fear was now of another kind. I felt sure that he creature was what we called ‘good’, but I wasn’t sure whether I liked ‘goodness’ so much as I had supposed. This is a very terrible experience. As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it also is dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat, and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played.” – C.S. Lewis, Perelandra

Faulty concepts held by organized religions have given goodness a bad name. The state known as “good” is often referred to as a static state, one that is essentially devoid of most if not all of life’s pleasures.

Paradise, heaven, the land of the “good” or whatever you call it is frequently depicted as being free from the temptations of sex, a vague and airy-fairy place where nothing really ever comes to point, a bubble that is free of creative tension, decisions and drama. Most egregiously, organized religions paint paradise as being attainable only in the afterlife; likewise, hell is seen as somewhere you go if you fail to accept the various tenets of “goodness” in your lifetime.

These concepts couldn’t be farther from the truth. Goodness is a plastic state, one that is constantly being renewed by the ever-flowing current of life which animates all living forms. Goodness results whenever the power of love takes shape according to the principles of truth, but be not mistaken, goodness is not the same as niceness.

It seems to me that many people who have sought to be “good” end up in the situation described by C.S. Lewis. The reason for this is that the “good” and “evil” propped up by many religions is a misleading set off alternatives which have little to nothing to do with that which is created when the one power, the power of love, is shaped by the design of truth.

When you look at the matter from the standpoint I am suggesting, you see that there is no need to judge good versus evil. If you feel as though the last card has been turned, that so-called good is as flimsy and disappointing as the relative ease of so-called evil is unfulfilling, then you are ready to rise above the limited state of being that inevitably comes when you are bound up in this struggle.

8 thoughts on “The Last Card

  1. Joy

    We certainly live in a world where so much supposed goodness is actually dreadful. Most people are utterly horrified if you point this out because they are so invested in it. How blessed those are who know the difference so that our lives are not wasted in the futile endevour of fighting against evil.

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  2. Zach

    It is not surprising to see the difficulty that people have had with good and evil. Good seems boring, and evil is either real evil and untenable to anyone who has any desire to be good, or merely dissatisfying in a self-centered way. People see heaven as a place filled with angel versions of Ned Flanders, but it is possible to live in a world filled with heaven’s perfection here and now. I think that in the posts written in this blog you have detailed many ways to go about this, but the first step is always to let go of the things that are keeping you limited. Let go and don’t panic, the right things will grow into place.

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  3. Brad

    Makes me think about the times in my life that i been fooled by “goodness”,…those things often appear pleasant and comfortable, only to find out it was quite the opposite.
    One of the aspects of life that I am beginning to enjoy and appreciate is change – positive growth and change – and it doesn’t come from seeking “goodness” and comfort…it’s sometimes even a bumpy road, however the journey to the end is filled with wonderful opportunities to rise to a new occasion!
    Thanks for sharing C.S. Lewis

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  4. Vincent

    People have been torn to pieces both internally and externally, individually and collectively, in the quest to be “good.” How good can that be?

    Once the judgment of good and evil is released, it is possible to perceive the rhythms of creation. There are so many different textures – relaxed and tense, chaotic and ordered, complete and incomplete – but every phase has its place and its part. As there are those who dwell serenely in the momentary nexus point there may be stewardship with respect to the unfolding cycles, resulting in something that is ultimately “good,” but what that would look like would probably be highly surprising to most!

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  5. Ricardo B.

    This is a very interesting dichotomy you present. A good bit of the status quo that is held by people results from compromises with truth. Whole industries are erected that contain built-in assumptions and biases, and even when the evidence is clear that these structures are faulty, people still cling to them tooth and nail for fear of having to start all over again or losing something important. Any man-made structure needs to be fashioned unto truth if there is going to be lasting sustainability because man can decide what to do with reality, for better or worse.
    This is a very interesting dichotomy you present. A good bit of the status quo that is held by people results from compromises with truth. Whole industries are erected that contain built-in assumptions and biases, and even when the evidence is clear that these structures are faulty, people still cling to them tooth and nail for fear of having to start all over again or losing something important. Any man-made structure needs to be fashioned unto truth if there is going to be lasting sustainability because man can decide what to do with reality, for better or worse.
    If you look at any institution that desperately needs reform – education and medicine come to mind – what is preventing the good to shine through all the way? Not just squeak through here and there, but full blazing glorious shine? Compromises. In my mind, if you keep building on feeble beams which do not have supportive strength, you should expect a breaking point.
    The truth can be hard to look at for it plays no favors and is what it is. This understanding and its acceptance I’ve learned is the only real blessing that lasts. It very well can be a bit bitter to swallow but its renewing influence soon begins to make all crooked things straight. I know that for me the buck stops here as I put all my cards on the table in the spirit of Mr. Lewis’ words!

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  6. Lady Leo

    It seems to me that judgment has become hard wired into us, and only by deliberately not doing it, will that change. I find I say things to myself such as; “Maybe good, maybe bad who knows ?” or “Time may tell.” or “It’s between them and God.” (which since being introduced to Mother Theresa’s poem I’ve added, “anyway”). I’ve noted these admonitions to myself are helping to reprogram that habit of jumping to the injurious concussions that result from judgement. It feels…good not to be encumbered with this task!

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