The Great Dance
One of the beautiful things that C. S. Lewis describes both in his nonfiction essays and in novels like Perelandra is the beauty of the Great Dance.
The Great Dance is his way of talking about the patterning, ordering, structuring, and interlocking of reality. So, reality is filled up with all different kinds of things. You’ve got babies, bugs, the sun, the moon, the stars, and various species. You’ve got all of these different kinds of things scattered all over creation and yet they’re woven together in such a way that there’s a kind of harmony and union of these great unlikenesses.
That combination of unlikeness-but-woven-together is what Lewis meant by the Great Dance. The patterning that we see in nature is meant to be a kind of window or picture of the spiritual life.
Part of the Christian life is seeking to live into whatever place God has assigned to us.
One of the things that Lewis is commending is the beauty of this ordered, structured—even hierarchical—world. It’s a world where some people bow and other people receive the bow, like in the case of a king. There’s a beauty in both.
A Role to Play
He has a great line in Perelandra where he says, “Everything is righteousness and there is no equality” meaning not that people are unequally valuable, but that we have different functions and places in God’s great story, in God’s Great Dance. Part of the Christian life is seeking to live into whatever place God has assigned to us.
So, this means all sorts of things can cascade out of this. This means men and women are different, that God designed them differently to fill different places, and there’s a beauty and glory in masculinity, and there’s a beauty and glory in femininity. There’s a likeness between them, but there’s also a great unlikeness.
Learning to celebrate that, love that, and not resist that is one of the fundamental challenges of human existence. Lewis wants us to see it not just as This is the way it is; get used to it, but as a beautiful thing. He wants to awaken us to the joy and gladness in the Great Dance.
Lewis insists on something that is radically out of step with the modern world.
You can either put God at the center of the universe in your heart or you can put yourself or something else there.
Lewis is a master of the soul. He understands the human heart, in all its deceitfulness and grandeur, both in its good design and in its twisted corruption.