When I was a kid, I was into Batman. Really, really into him. Had a huge stack of Batman comics. When I grew up, I thought it would be very cool to be Batman.
Then one winter day, as she sat in the dining room working on some play she was writing, my mom looked up and saw me march down the stairs, into the living room, and place all my Batman comics in the fireplace.
I was done with them.
What happened? she wanted to know. Here’s what happened: I read C.S. Lewis.
I’d been reading the Narnia books and had just closed the cover on the very last one, The Last Battle. It did something to me, changed me in a way I couldn’t explain.
For the next two days, I couldn’t go to school. I stayed home, supposedly sick, but the truth was that I was sitting in my room in wonder, the book’s reverberations rocking my world. A good deal of that time, I was crying, I had no idea exactly why. There was certainly nothing sad in the ending of The Last Battle. Quite the contrary. But the tears kept coming. (Years later I learned that the very same thing happened to my wife, Ana, when she first read the very same book as a child.)
That was February 1964. I was nine and a half years old.
After a few days, I told my mom I had to get in touch with Mr. Lewis. I needed to ask him questions about this book. Mainly, I needed to ask, was it real?
I didn’t mean real real. I knew that Lucy and Edmund and Peter and Aslan and the rest were all made up characters, and there was no actual place called Narnia. That wasn’t the question. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the question was, I only knew I needed to ask it.
My mom, bless her, took all this quite seriously. She brought me to the library to look up C.S. Lewis and find out how I could write to him.
Instead, what we found was that Lewis was gone. He had died just a few months earlier—on November 22, 1963, oddly enough, exactly one hour before an assassin’s bullet took JFK.
I wanted to ask Lewis about Aslan’s Country, but he had already gone there in person, leaving us behind to figure it out.
At the end of the book the Pevensie children — Peter, Edmund, and Lucy — encounter a barn that contains inside it an entire world. The barn, they are told, is bigger on the inside than on the outside.
Something like the TARDIS, the iconic telephone-box contraption featured on the British television series Dr. Who — the longest-running and most successful science fiction series of all time — which was explicitly described on the show as being bigger on the inside than on the outside.
(Another historical oddity: the very first episode of Dr. Who aired at 5:15 p.m. Greenwich time, November 23, 1963, twenty-four hours almost to the minute after Lewis died.)
Today I have a better understanding of why The Last Battle so rocked my world that I burned my Batman comics and sat in my room disconsolate for days.
It was the first time in my life that I realized there was another, larger reality than this one we seem to live in.
That February day, the day I read the final page of the Narnia chronicles, marked the end of my childhood and beginning of something else. (My adulthood, I suppose.)
I have never lost my fascination with things that are larger on the inside than on the outside. A baby’s smile is like that. Words are like that.
And so, it turns out, is existence itself.
Have you ever had something great, something absolutely unexpected, happen to you, something that just “came out of nowhere”? That “nowhere” that good things come from is something that is much, much bigger on the inside. Empty space, it turns out, isn’t empty at all, but full of boundless wisdom.
Physicists have figured this out. A single cubic centimeter of “empty space” contains more energy than all the matter of the known universe.* Only it isn’t energy as we think of it. It’s more like consciousness. Awareness. Thought. When ideas “just come to you”? That’s where they come from. Out of nowhere. Or more accurately, out of everywhere.
Physicists have figured this out. Others — like C.S Lewis — have known it for years.
*) Earlier this year I wrote a piece about all this, entitled “The Startling Physics Behind Infinite Abundance,” which was published as the cover story for the March 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine, a holistic journal published in India. If you’re interested in reading it, you can download the full article by clicking on the “Download” button below. (Click to view, right-click — on a Mac, control-click — to download.)