Monday, January 26, 2009

The Inner Ring

In "The Inner Ring," Lewis describes the age old idea of cliques and popularity. It is a struggle to fit into whatever society a person may be a part of.

He begins by using a quote from Tolstoi's War and Peace. In this passage, a general is silenced by a lower ranking official. Why? Because the general is not a part of the elusive "inner ring". This idea of an inner ring is not surprising to us because we have all experienced it in our lives. We all know who the most "important" people are in high school. We all know what groups or social circles are alive and well here at Calvin. We have even seen, or at least I have, the inner ring of our churches. 

Is there something wrong with the inner ring? I think that it depends greatly upon what these people do with their power. I say power because they certainly have much power over others. The manipulations that can be caused by an intense desire to be within the group are many. People may speak of peer pressure. The only reason peer pressure works is because one person does not feel the same amount of power as the group. But if this power is not used to harm or manipulate, is there actually something wrong with having a close group of friends?

I would say no. The problem is that it is so tempting to exclude, even on accident. In most cases, it is not outright denial of entry into some clubhouse. Instead, it can happen in subtle conversations about group events of the past which others had no part in. Or perhaps it can be the absense of an invitation to a group function (though this is slightly more direct exclusion). Or maybe it is merely in the looks and glances that pass between group members when someone else is attempting to enter their circle of power. 

But what about the outsider? What is his or her responsibilty? C.S. Lewis explains that we must conquer our desire to be in the inner ring. "The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it." This is a profound statement. It means that once we stop trying to fit in, we will find our actual place in the community at large. This doesn't promise popularity to all. But there is a hope that we can all find a few good friends if we allow the friendships that are already starting to flourish.

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