When I take the girls on Daddy Dates, we usually come up with an activity that requires us to use our imagination. We might imagine stories about the people we see on the street. Or we might pretend that we are discovering a new country we didn’t know about.
On our last date we noticed our reflection in the window of the subway car and began to wonder if we were real and they were the reflection, or were they real and we were the reflection? We began to imagine what they were thinking of us, as they pointed at us out of the window glass and talked and laughed with one another.
This play continued throughout the evening as we caught our reflection in mirrors and store front windows. And it continued even last night as we were brushing teeth before bed. “Am I the real me, or am I the reflection?” my 3-year-old asked me.
Reflection and reality
Strange to think of a 3-year-old wrestling with metaphysical ideas about the nature of reality, but that’s what happens when you exercise your imagination. How can tell the difference between reflection and reality? These are the sort of questions philosophers have asked for ages, and now my daughter is asking them. But she’s not asking with doubt and fear, in a quandary about her own existence. She’s asking with wonder and excitement in her voice.
When the Pevensie children first entered Narnia, and then came back to our world, no time had lapsed. They spent a lifetime in Narnia, and it was as if no time had passed here in our world. They wrestled with questions of reality. Is Narnia real? Maybe it is more real than our world. In many ways it felt that way to them. But in the last book of the series, The Last Battle, Lewis reveals that even Narnia was only a reflection of the true Narnia found in Aslan’s country.
In many ways, our world is like Narnia. We spend a lifetime here, but that is merely the blink of eye in eternity. And while this world feels real to us, it is but a reflection of the world to come. When my little girl wonders with excitement if she is only a reflection, I tell her yes, now we are only reflections of our true selves. In eternity we will finally be ourselves for real, when we know Him and are known by Him.
You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a lookingglass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean. [C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle]
My daughter doesn’t get depressed, thinking her life is of no value if there is something more real out there. To think that there might be something more real than our world excites her. She likes the idea, the mystery, of unexplored reality. Reflection and reality, she’s excited about them both, because they are connected.