I've taken so long to post about it because I never seemed to be able to wrap my head around it completely even to post about it. So it's funny that I've just been thinking about a related concept, partly because of my Sacred Music meeting (which was last night, by the way, and went well, I think). The concept I've been thinking about is whether or not you should introduce children to things that they can't completely understand. I wrote a little about it last year here in the context of introducing poetry to children. Willa recently reminded me of it here.
This came up in my reading (mostly writings of Cardinal Ratzinger) on music because music - particularly if some of it's in a different language - has some of the air of mystery to it. I'm sure it's possible to have music that's far too sophisticated to "reach" most people. Right now the tend is the far opposite extreme - songs that have no depth or mystery whatever to them.
In A New Song for the Lord, Cardinal Ratzinger says:
Speaking about singing in accordance with wisdom points to a word-oriented art, but the place of word must not be narrowed in the superficially rationalistic sense of an intelligibility of all words at all times. Instead, looking at it from the perspective of the early Church, we can call what is meant here music in accordance with logos [with "reason"] There is an art form corresponding to God, who, from the beginning and in each life, is the creative Word which also gives meaning. This art form stands under the primacy of logos; that is, it integrates the diversity of the human being from the perspective of this being's highest moral and spiritual powers, but in this way it also leads the spirit out of rationalistic and voluntaristic confinement to the symphony of creation.
Well, that's a tangent I can't fully explain right now, but it does relate to my thoughts on TMWWT anyway. I read this book aloud to the kids this summer. It was an enjoyable, adventurous read, but I left feeling like I hadn't understood the story very well at all. The kids loved it and have listened to the audio numerous times (they're obviously not afraid of diving into things they don't fully understand - a good thing I think!).
So I put the book away, thinking I'd have to read it a second time some day (that second time, by the way, needs to be this week!). The funny thing is how little thoughts and ideas kept coming back from it and a number of things in real life kept reminding me of the story.
Anyway, today I started re-reading TMWWT today and came to this in the foreword by Chesterton himself:
...I should not wish it supposed, as some I think have supposed, that in resisting the heresy of pessimism I implied the equally morbid and diseased insanity of optimism. I was not then considering whether anything is really evil, but whether everything is really evil; and in relation to the latter nightmare it does still seem to me relevant to say that nightmares are not true; and that in them even the faces of friends may appear as the faces of fiends. I tried to turn this notion of resistance to a nightmare into a topsy-turvey tale about a man who fancied himself alone among enemies, and found that each of the enemies was in fact on his own side and in his own solitude. That is the only thing that can be called a meaning in the story; all the rest of it was written for fun..."
Getting a little too fuzzy here at the moment. I'll try to get back to this more later.