I have been enjoying an engaging set of lectures by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. The series is called, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. I just finished the final lecture focused on Disney’s Pinocchio. Dr. Peterson covers a lot of themes, and one of these intersected with the main idea of C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. It was a concept I struggled with as a child.
If I were to attempt to formalize the issue, I might ask the question: Are my thoughts—my very beliefs—my own? The problem is a hard one to grapple with. The first time this question came up was when I was told the only reason I believed such-and-such was because of my parents. Seeing as I was in the minority, the band of “debaters” who had surrounded me decided this was the appropriate juncture to loudly repeat the point their fellow had made until I would consent to being wrong.
Well I bloody well didn’t. But there was a kernel of truth about what was said, a democratic truth. None of us were well versed on the issue, and we all agreed with our parents. But the question really reared its head when our class attempted art, and in my case, storytelling. I would listen to my peers “original” narratives, which were obvious forgeries. I challenged my friend on it once and he punched me. It felt like a conspiracy. I began to wonder if my own creations were really my own, or if I was merely a megaphone for some other voice, a puppet on a string.
I was as Pinocchio, a marionette, not to strings, but pulled this way and that by a myriad of barely recognized forces. My decisions where not my own, it seemed, but I was responsible for them. One way to respond to this problem is mindless rebellion, remember Pleasure Island. I think, to some extent, that’s what hipsters are motivated by. The dilemma here is that the fruit of rebellion is not freedom, but slavery.
My dad would tease me whenever we watched this classic, and tell me that one day I would be a real boy. Dr. Peterson brings out that Pinocchio finds his autonomy in reconnecting with his father, and dying while rescuing him.
The puppet in us has to die before we can become ourselves, before we have faces. And it doesn’t die by throwing away all that our heritage offers us. It dies when we turn and face the pursuing monster, and rescue our drowning humanity.