"...What some people say on earth is that the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved."
"Ye see it does not."
"I feel in a way that it ought to."
"That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it."
"The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto heaven."
"I don't know what I want, Sir."
"Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves. I know it has a grand sound to say ye'll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye'll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the Universe."
The Great Divorce, read as a requirement in a religion class in college, changed my life. I lived in a close relationship with a grandmother who was a destroyer of other peoples' happiness. She was miserable, and joy in other people was intolerable to her. It highlighted her own pain and sadness. And so she lashed out at it.
During that time in my life I was also one of those "God will save everybody" kind of people. Rather mushy-brained and relying on emotion. Sensibility, rather than sense, you know.
This particular paragraph made me gasp aloud when I read it, because it was such a clear vision of what my grandmother was living and choosing every day of her life. And every day of ours. To think, finally THINK, about what allowing ourselves to be held captive to that meant--well, it was more than eye-opening. It was transformative.
It meant I could choose joy. I could choose it, reaching out to her in love, but not allowing her to remake my choice. It's a path I've tried to follow ever since. It led me into a Church that no one else in my extended family shares. But I have never felt that I was called to reject joy because of someone else.
Thank you, Mr. Lewis. You put my feet on the path.