Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bigger on the Inside

One of the coolest things about the British sci fi series Dr. Who is the Doctor’s spaceship/time machine. The TARDIS (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) is a police box (about the size of a phone booth—remember those?).

Dr. Who's TARDIS

But that’s just on the outside. On the inside, the TARDIS is palatial, with many large rooms and possibly a swimming pool in the library. As a long parade of mystified visitors and companions have exclaimed in wonder, “It’s bigger on the inside!”

The controls of the TARDIS

The concept of bigger-on-the-inside is sometimes called dimensional transcendence, and it pops up a lot in fantasy stories.

  • For example, do you remember the World Quidditch Cup at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Tri-Wizard Tournament? The Weasleys and Harry stay in tents that are much larger and more luxurious inside than outside, causing Harry to exclaim, “I love magic!”

  • And in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Herminone’s little beaded handbag holds books, tents, and many changes of clothes. The boys were lucky that Hermione planned ahead and packed for their trip.

  • In Patricia McKillips’s Harpist in the Wind, when you climb a certain spiral staircase, you never get any closer to the top—unless the owner decides to let you in. 

  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Zarniwoop has a complete universe in his small office.

Sometimes the trope of “bigger on the inside” is played for a humorous effect, and sometimes for something more profound.

My favorite example of dimensional transcendence comes from The Last Battle, the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. The children enter a small stable that contains all of Aslan’s Country. They are reminded that once on Planet Earth, a stable held Heaven under a bright star—at the birth of Jesus.

But when you think about it, the adult human brain weighs about 2½ to 3 pounds, with a volume of about 1260 cubic centimeters in men and 1130 in women. Not very big. Unless you’re comparing it to the brain of a Stegosaurus, which was about the size of a lime.

And yet, our minds hold galaxies, paradoxes, stories, symphonies, the accumulated memories and knowledge of a lifetime. A sudden smell or a melody can unlock some hidden and forgotten memory we would have thought lost and inaccessible.

Where and how do we store the knowledge of how to play Chopin on the piano? Or how to write a story or a poem? Or how to compete at sports at the Olympics level? Sometimes we can even do things we don’t know how to do! We human beings are so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. 

Marianne Moore wrote a poem that says:

The mind is an enchanting thing is an enchanted thing, like the glaze on a katydid-wing subdivided by sun till the nettings are legion.

Our minds are amazing, with so many "nettings" and interconnections. And our spirits are amazing too. The Apostle Paul said,

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. --  II Cor. 4:7 New Living Translation

We are like clay pots that don't always look very impressive on the outside. But on the inside. . .we are so much bigger.

Image Credits:
  TARDIS - Author: Chris Sampson;
  TARDIS Controls - Author: Chris Sampson;
  Nativity Scene - Author: Photo: Andreas Praefcke;
  Skull with brain - Author: Images generated by Life Science Databases(LSDB);
  Ranunculus in blue pot - © Can Stock Photo / Neirfy:
  Clay pot with flowers - © Can Stock Photo / Elenarts

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this! Ralph Waldo E agreed..."What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you." God Inside in hearts and head...awesome! Thanks so much for reminding us.