I read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for the first time a month ago and decided it was my favorite book ever. I had also had a hankerin’ to get a new tattoo, as I hadn’t gotten one in over two years, so I decided the two should be connected.
I wish I could sit across from you in a coffee shop, stroking my lengthy sophisticated beard and explaining to you the deep meaning behind my hip new tattoo, and how its geometric angles and minimalistic simplicity reflect the nature of the Triune God, but that’s not the case.
I do have a number of deep meanings behind the tattoo, but when I tell you what it is, you’ll just laugh.
The first meaning is friendship. The tattoo wasn’t even my idea, but was the result of a lot of brainstorming between my friends Rachael, Robb, and I, who all got the tattoo together. (Technically it was Rachael’s idea first…) The three of us have a special connection now that we will have the rest of our lives, or until one of us caves and gets it lasered off (my money is on Robb). It’s not so much about what it is, but the special fact that three of us in the world have this on our calfs, and always will.
The second meaning is even deeper.
In The Great Divorce, Lewis paints a picture of heaven and hell and the difference between them. People in heaven are real. They are solid and have weight. They are presented as people who let go of their earthly desires and embraced what they couldn’t see from earth.
Meanwhile, the people from hell are more like phantoms. They have no weight. They walk atop the grass without even pushing the blades down. They are all angry and stuck in their old selves, wrapped up in grudges, pride, and complaints. They are restless and bitter. They don’t really matter because they clung to what was not really important.
They are people who were made for another dimension, but wandered astray.
So, in order to represent this, my friends and I got a tattoo of a character from Spongebob Squarepants. Doodlebob.
We got Doodlebob.
In this one episode, a magic pencil falls from the top of the ocean into Bikini Bottom. Spongebob picks it up and soon discovers that whatever he draws comes to life. So naturally, he draws himself and it comes to life. The problem is, this 2-dimensional version of himself is evil and starts destroying the city.
At the end of the episode, Spongebob entraps Doodlebob by throwing paper at him, and the 2-dimensional doodle is captured where he belongs: on paper. Once he is back in his 2-D world, he is happy and content.
When he returns to the world for which he was originally designed, he is at peace.
Saint Augustine said, “My soul is restless till it rests in thee,” which, coincidentally, I’m thinking of adding to the tattoo because it wouldn’t look confusing at all.
Just as Doodlebob was not at peace until he found rest in the 2-D world he was designed for, we are wanderers in a dimension not our own. This tattoo is summed up by another C.S. Lewis quote (which would be too long to add to the tattoo):
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
This tattoo, facetious as it appears, reflects the angst in all of us that longs for the next world. Or as described in The Great Divorce, we’re all looking for that high country.
“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
I get shivers every time I read that last sentence.