The Problem of Perspective

February 21, 2012
Perspective is a word you will hear often in this age. People, now more than ever, have many different viewpoints on everything from art to politics to religion. But how much does perspective really matter? Post-modernists today will tell you that everything is perspective and opinion. In short they believe that there is no right or wrong and that it’s all perspective. Is this true?

C.S. Lewis, a well known Christian author famous for weaving theological messages into his fiction, wrote a science fiction novel titled Out of the Silent Planet which deals with this topic. The book revolves around philologist Dr. Ransom who is kidnapped by two men, one of them an old schoolfellow, and taken on a journey into space.

Lewis makes it clear from the beginning that perspective does indeed matter. The question then arises: how much does it matter? Lewis confronts this question later in the book.

As time goes on Ransom begins to realize that the typical human conception of space is a lie. “Now, with a certainty which never after deserted him he saw the mere holes or gaps in the living heaven...” (Lewis 41). Ransom’s perspective on space changed as he saw the majesty and glory of it all. So much so that he even said that the word “space” seemed almost blasphemous.

As the journey goes on, Ransom overhears a conversation between his captors in which they discuss their plans to turn him over to a people called the sorn. His captors speak with fear of the sorn, and Ransom becomes fearful as well. Ransom, who has never met the sorn, doesn’t know what to expect and imagines a War of the Worlds style malevolent alien.

Determined not to fall into the hands of the sorn, Ransom escaped his captors upon landing on the planet Malacandra. As he flees, he soon comes into contact with another alien life form native to the planet. The life form resembled a mixture of several Earth animals. Unlike an animal, however, this life form was intelligent. It could reason and had its own form of language. This led Ransom to the following conclusion:

It was only many days later that Ransom discovered how to deal

with these sudden losses of confidence. They arose when the

rationality of the hross tempted you to think of it as a man.

Then it became abominable...But starting from the other end you

had an animal with everything an animal ought to have...and added

to all these, the charm of speech and reason. Nothing could be

more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful

than the other. It all depended on the point of view. (Lewis 59)

Lewis makes the point that perspective does indeed matter greatly, it can mean the difference between something beautiful and something horrid. But is perspective everything? Lewis makes it clear that it is not.

When Ransom finally meets the sorn, he discovers them to be quite amicable. “...he remembered that he was the guest of a sorn and that the creature he had been avoiding ever since he had landed had turned out to be as amicable as the hrossa...” (Lewis 97). Ransom’s captors feared the sorn because they believed them savages and brutes. They could not picture them as intelligent beings.

Borne of the back of the sorn, Ransom is taken to see the Oyarsa, the ruler of Malacandra. Oyarsa tells Ransom that there was an Oyarsa ruling over Earth as well, but they had cut him off from the rest of the universe. Back then, before there were people on Earth, Earth’s Oyarsa was a wonderful leader but it would not stay that way. “It is the longest of stories and the bitterest. He became [evil]” (Lewis 120). Earth’s Oyarsa became known as “the Bent One” and was imprisoned on Earth where he corrupted all those living there, bringing evil to Earth.

The bottom line is this: perspective is important, but it is not everything. Differing perspectives can start wars or ruin friendships. Perspective can make something wonderful or horrible. Our perspectives shape our view of this world. Perspective cannot however frame right from wrong. Right and wrong are set in stone by God. When we loose sight of right and wrong in favor of opinion and perspective, we loose everything.

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