“That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way ... The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”
— Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew
In the Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis tells the story of the young boy named Digory who is sent on a journey by Aslan to retrieve an apple from a particular garden beyond the western mountains. The reason given to the boy for his trial is that the great Lion desires to plant a tree that will protect His kingdom from evil for generations to come. The boy is not to eat the apple in question. He is simply to pluck it from its branch, place it in his breast pocket, and return it to Aslan unblemished.
Upon making the trek, riding atop the winged horse Fledge, Digory arrives at his destination. It is a walled garden protected by a great golden gate with a silver inscription that paradoxically warns that fruit intended for others should never be stolen for oneself: “For those who steal or those who climb my wall shall find their hearts desire and find despair.”
Entering through the gate Digory obeys Aslan’s instructions. Tempted as he is by the delicious smell of the fruit he decides he must do as he is told - He refuses his desire and instead secures the apple and turns to leave the garden.
But as he does so, the boy is confronted by an evil witch. Her knowing smile betrays her. She has juice dripping from the corners of her mouth. “Don’t you see fool” she says, “that one bite of that apple” would give you your heart’s desire?
Digory persists. He evades the witch and returns to Aslan and there at the Lion’s knee he is reminded that there is an element of truth in the witch’s seductions. Yes indeed, eating the apple would bring satisfaction. But to do so at the “wrong time and in the wrong way” would ultimately lead the boy to loathe, not love the object of his appetite. “All get what they want” but “they do not always like it.”
I thought of this story recently while I was reading an essay entitled “Dorm Brothels” by Vigen Guroian, professor of theology at Loyola College in Baltimore.
In his essay Dr. Guroian laments the sexual dysfunction prevalent on his campus as well as that of most all other colleges and universities of our land. After sharing page after page of lurid detail of the incidents of sexual exploitation and sexual use and abuse rife within co-ed dorms [and all other living environments for that matter] at Loyola, Guroian references Aldous Huxley’s, Brave New World, as a metaphor for today’s campus. He contends that the loss of self restraint and self respect in the contemporary academy is akin to the abolition of marriage, the end of courtship, and the loss of sexual intimacy described in Brave New World.
Guroian goes on to tell how a young Loyola co-ed agreed with the parallels he had drawn between Huxley and her campus: “Dr. Guroian”, the student said, “It is more like Brave New World here than you think. . . Most (students) are not looking for a romantic relationship; they ... see the new freedom and plethora of sexual opportunities and simply take what they can get. They get to college, and it’s an amusement park with so many different enticing rides, one would be missing out on the whole experience to settle with the first one they tried.”
Dr. Guroian then cites this woman’s conclusion: “Coed dormitories - are they an ideal situation or a sad form of prostitution? You go out with your friends on your terms, after a few drinks you’re both attracted. … Interested and lonely, you go together, no obligations, no responsibilities, and no rules. Then there is that late-night ‘booty call.’ This has become such a custom of the college lifestyle (that) most have come to accept it, although maybe not respect it. If it were really the ideal situation, the walk home the next day wouldn’t be called ‘the walk of shame.’”
In the Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis contends that there are only two kinds of people in the end: Those who say to God “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says “thy will be done.”
Digory submitted to the grandest idea of all: something bigger than his own desires and stronger than his own passions. He declared to Aslan, “Thy will be done” and he, thus, enjoyed the fruit of the great Lion’s grace and he “enjoyed it.”
The college student in Dr. Guroian’s Dorm Brothel, (and by association all of us who are complicit in this educational model), also bear the consequences of the power of ideas. Standing before God with juice dripping from the corner of one’s mouth is it possible we hear the words, “Thy will be done. You will get what you want. But beware; you will loathe it ever after. You will not always like it.”