In any case, what was a minor epiphany for me, or a key to unlocking a major, problematic theme in my life, was this: that life is linear and time-bound and we, therefore, can never experience the fullness of it in any one moment, but only isolated scenes within the larger plot of it.
This is important for me because, for as long as I can remember, I've had grand aspirations for my life, coinciding with relative dissatisfaction in my current position. I've imagined that if I could just learn to keep my house clean or be "Mother of the Year" or get an education or ascend to the level of spiritual guru, THEN I would be content, rich, full: like the ideal in my mind. But the problem with a dream of the future is that the picturing of it isn't the picturing of real life at all, but of a state of being. Here is how Lewis puts it:
In real life, as in a story, something must happen. That is just the trouble. We grasp at a state and find only a succession of events in which the state is never quite embodied. The grand idea of finding Atlantis which stirs us in the first chapter of the adventure story is apt to be frittered away in mere excitement when the jouney has once begun. But so, in real life, the idea of adventure fades when the day-to-day details begin to happen. Nor is this merely because actual hardship and danger shoulder it aside. ...Suppose there is no disappointment; even so- well, you are here. But now, something must happen, and after that, something else. All that happens may be delightful: but can any such series quite embody the sheer state of being which was what we wanted? ...In real life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch in our net of successive moments something that is not successive.
This isn't to say that I can't create a measurably better or worse life for myself by tangible acts. But note this: that even if I am someday living a very good life, by all standards, I can only experience it in little snippets, moment by moment. The sadness that I feel in reaction to loss will not be fundamentally different than it is when I feel it now. And conversely, my moments of great joy will be moments very like ones I experience now.
When I think of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamozov, I think of the whole book, the themes and characters which, together, say something true and profound. No one character or one scene, though there are brilliant ones and ones which stand quite well on their own, embodies the novel as a whole. So with life, each scene develops key aspects of my character, the significance of which will only come to light when the plot is seen as a whole. So maybe now, thanks to Lewis, I will relax a bit, sit back and enjoy the read.