Shadowlands is a film from 1993 about the relationship between academic C.S. Lewis and American poet Joy Davidman, and how she challenged how he saw himseIf and his entire way of life. I just watched “Shadowlands” for the fifth time after quite a few years. Watching it this time I understood much more deeply and clearly why this is one of my most favorite movies of all time. To summarize:
The triumph of emotions over logic!
I was raises to be seriously logical and intellectual. My father, the academic, took great pride in his transition from the son of a railroad man to a college professor. He attributed that success within himself to discipline and reason, and so he taught his children to restrain from emotions in favor of rational thought and science. In the film, Joy’s introduction to the grand age-old traditions of British academia at Cambridge represent to me that world, the comfortable, safe rule of rational thought.
Enter Joy Davidson, with her refreshingly straightforward honesty in the face of Mr. Lewis’s pomp and circumstance. This was me. I played that role in my father’s life. I would challenge his beliefs all the time. I was threatening because in his world, where everyone was younger, weaker and looked up to him, I was direct and honest in challenging those things that made no sense to me. For example, his praise of emotionlessness. He once said that the word love made no sense. There was no clear definition for love, so in a way, it does not exist. This needed to be challenged! His whole life I challenged him and he didn’t like it.
In contrast, in Shadowlands, Professor Lewis comes to appreciate Joy’s candor and deeply loved her for it. She brings him back to life. She was a bright spark with her passion for honesty and saying-it-like-it is. My father never became very comfortable with me or his emotions. He only acknowledged deep feelings when he was overcome by them.
I have learned that I was raised with far too many rules about everything from both my mother and father, and I have been breaking them ever since. Mike has been instrumental in pointing this out to me and I so appreciate that aspect of our relationship!
I have learned that there is no proper way to see and live your life, only the way you choose. By setting your own rules, you learn who you really are inside, for better or worse. That can be quite satisfying. It is a major part of your own uniqueness. And if you don’t, you may discover when it’s time to die, you have not lived.