As I begin my foray into the world of blogging, I think it would be a good idea to explore the name I’ve chosen for my blog, With Hands Open. It’s a reference to C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra. Um. I should preface this by saying that it’s science fiction, so it may sound really weird to the uninitiated. So be it. I’ll give a brief, and therefore drastically simplified, explanation of the scene from which it’s taken since I know most of my friends are probably unfamiliar with it.
Perelandra is the second book in a trilogy that centers around Dr. Elwin Ransom. On the surface it’s a rip-roaring adventure. But underlying the whole is the idea of gender. Out of the Silent Planet takes place largely on Mars (Malacandra in the series), Perelandra on Venus(Perelandra in the series), and That Hideous Strength on earth, with a married couple as protagonists. C.S. Lewis was a scholar of the Medieval period and often used gods and goddesses as a kind of shorthand for ideas and concepts in his work, as did the classical scholars he studied. So it’s not just about the planets, but about Mars as masculine and Venus as feminine. As a whole, the trilogy explores ideas of masculinity, femininity, and the interaction between the two. At the end of Perelandra, interestingly approximately in the middle of the series as a whole since the final book is considerably longer than the others, Ransom watches as two eldila (roughly corresponding to angels), take on a new, more physical appearance to honor the king and queen of the planet. The two eldila are the rulers of Mars and Venus, respectively, and they are described in some detail. They share several characteristics, such as height and form. There is so much similarity, in fact, that Ransom seems puzzled by how they can seem so different. There are no sexual characteristics, but nonetheless Lewis states “what Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender.” Ransom struggles to identify, to explain the difference. And in his struggle, he describes their stance. “He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with the palms toward him.”
As I read that phrase, I wept. It is such a vivid picture of the kind of willing openness that Lewis portrays throughout the book. It is an image that has stayed with me ever since I read it over a year ago. I have pondered what is meant by that image of open hands – why do people open their hands? What can they do with open hands? What can’t they do? I thought of examples of people who lived with open hands, and of people who lived with closed hands – from Lewis’ fiction, from Scripture, from real life. The image would come to me when I struggled with wanting to hold on to something – to power, to my rights, to anger. And I realized that God was calling me to pursue this idea, specifically in Lewis, and from an academic standpoint.
And I mentally gave myself that “You crazy, girl,” look. I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of three incredibly creative, curious, energetic children. I have trouble just feeding them and keeping them alive! I would have to be absolutely insane to tackle a task of this magnitude. Not to mention that I’ve been far removed from any kind of academic work or environment for, what, twelve years, more or less? Yeah. You crazy, girl.
And God said, “Are you willing to open your hands to what I have for you?” And what could I say but yes? So I started doing some research, but I kept putting the housework or the schoolwork or the errands ahead of it, and before I knew it whole weeks would go by with little to no work done on it. And I would feel like something was wrong. And I would pray about it. And God would say, “Well, have you worked on your project this week?” And I would have to physically open my hands and say, “Forgive me, Lord. Yes, I will accept the gift of this work that You have given me.”
So, here I am. Reading and writing. Hopefully, eventually, publishing a book. Or two. In this space, I intend to primarily focus on Lewis and gender, but I will also keep my hands open to whatever God wants me to write about. So, in a sense, it’s all about open hands. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment!
P.S. If you’re interested in the artwork, it’s by my brother, Jake Moye. He is an amazing artist, and I’d be glad to pass on his info if you ask. He doesn’t have a store at the moment, but he does commissions.
Next Post: Why the Eldila?