Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different… – “Prince Caspian”
This pithy quote, attributed to the pages of Prince Caspian, the second installment of C. S. Lewis’s Narnian chronicles (that’s right, second, no matter what HarperCollins says),* appears all over the authoritative world wide web.
And when I say all over I mean ALL OVER.
And when I say ALL OVER, I mean ALLTHEFREAKINGOVER!
And approximately 6 million other pages.
It is quoted in mainstream publications. It is quoted in AP History presentations. It is quoted by pastors. It is quoted on every Lewis-loving-blogger’s blog known to humankind. (I hyperbolize.) It is quoted on every quote site in existence. (I exaggerate.) It is even quoted by C. S. Lewis himself on his personal Twitter account. (I joke not.)
At the risk of bringing down all the authoritative walls of Jericho, Google, Yahoo, and Bing in one fell swoop, I regret to inform all the many millions of people who have lauded this quote as meaningful, life-changing, heart-warming, wise, inspiring, eloquent, and other empty blathery things, that C. S. Lewis did not write these words in Prince Caspian, or any of the other Narnian Chronicles.**
It’s true that when Shasta, Aravis, Bree and Hwin race against time across the desert, the view behind them seems to stay the same no matter how long they trot-walk-trot-walk-trot-walk.
It’s also true that when Pole, Scrubb, Puddleglum, Snowflake and Coalblack climb up from the underworld, the view behind them seems to stay the same no matter how long they clop-clop-clop-clop carefully uphill and underground.
And when Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, Reepicheep and the others are on the last leg of their outbound voyage, it seems that little changes except for the inherent essence of the sun.
Too, when Peter, Susan, and Edmund are finally wise enough to follow Lucy who is following Aslan who is invisible to all but her, it seems like forever until the other three finally see his golden self walking in front of them.
But the confidently posted, quoted, blogged, tumbled, tweeted, grammed, and pinned quote is no quote at all. Not Lewis’s quote, anyway.**
Still, it has become a 6-million-hits-authoritative fact. No one questions it. No one bothers to look it up. No one takes the time to confirm or fact check or wonder if just maybe – since the quote is never referenced by a page number or given a context or framed within a larger narrative, it might be, well, FAKE – FALSE – UNTRUE – MADE UP – CONTRIVED – NONSENSE – BLATHERY FOO FOO.***
Confession: I do admire Lewis and love his books, and can tend to get unreasonably bothered and bent out of shape when people toss around his words and ideas without ever having read more than a handful of his 50-plus books and countless articles, notes, letters, reviews, and other writings. (“I’ve read Amos and Jude. Let me tell you everything you wanted to know about God.”)
But this isn’t about Lewis. (Okay, maybe it is a little – but not mostly.)
This is about language and thought and reason and creativity and honor and intellect and caution and so many other things.
It’s about how quickly and carelessly something becomes accepted fact.
It’s about how quickly and carelessly we swallow what the Information Age grazers and snackers share with us.
It’s about how quickly and carelessly we jump on whatever train is currently barreling down the cyber track.
It’s about how quickly and carelessly we discard and surrender our brains, assuming someone else has already done the necessary thinking for us.
Wrong. No. Bad form. Dumb idea. Stop it. Now.
All of us. Just stop it. Else our brains, rather than making thoughtful, adventurous, mindful, and exhilarating use of the vast knowledge now at our fingertips, will simply shut down and take a snooze that soon eclipses mere laziness and instead threatens our very ability to reason, to think, and therefore to be.
Quite frankly, as much as it irritates me, a wildly popular Lewis misquote is nothing more than a symptom of something much deeper, something that should worry us all.
And when I say worry us I mean worry us greatly.
© 2015 Crystal Kirgiss
* Reading order (also known as “publication order for as long as Lewis lived and beyond”):
Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Horse and His Boy
** I am 99% certain that I have never seen this phrase in any of Lewis’s books. To be fair, there are some I have read only once (English Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama, for example). I would happily stand corrected about this quote, by way of a specific title (including publication date, edition, and page number), which would then force me to self-rant about the dangers of publishing a blog post without first meticulously reading and exhausting every possible counter-response.
***Dishearteningly, I have even found uploaded book report about Prince Caspian that include this quote. Dear me.