Basically, the inner ring is an onion; an endless, big, onion. When one has the desire to get inside, the terror of being outside, the desire to peel it until the end discarding everything that’s really important only to obtain false acceptance… this kind of person is called a ‘snob’. But there is a reason Lewis compares the inner ring to an onion. It’s because if one peels and peels an onion to get to the inside, nothing is left eventually. Nothing.
The inner ring is specifically “second or unwritten systems.” It’s a non-constant group of people that play a game of in and out. A kind of inner ring can be society itself, or in a smaller scale, the “cool” group of kids in high school or even the group of children in grade school who have a Wii.
But the inner ring for itself is not evil. An onion is not evil either. It’s actually tasty if you cook it in a certain way and serve it with others. But when one peels it endlessly just for the sake of peeling and does not make use of it in any worthy way, it makes the person cry pointlessly until the whole kitchen is flooded. The inner ring and the onion are just “unavoidable” (the inner ring will always exist; the onion will always make you cry unless you have some strong tear glands). Yes, the inner ring for itself is not evil. The way one pursues it, the way one desires to get inside it is what may be dangerous since it may be badly intended, and could end up hurting others and one’s own self.
C.S Lewis asks, “In your whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction?”
My reply is a fortunate yes. I remember back in my high school years that I never let anyone pull me into their influence. In Peru, for example, drinking and partying with drinking was what’s “popular,” and though some classmates made fun of me for not doing any of these, I remained steady on my ground. People would not associate with me because I was “no fun”; I was out of the inner circle. Yet soon I found something more worthy to have out of that circle: God’s grace which came in the form of a true friend. But that's yet another story.
Resisting the inner ring was and is still certainly hard. I want to do something grand, but sometimes I strive for it for the desire of being “known” and not for itself. Then the joy and the fun of it ‘poofs’ like magic and I lose the motivation of keep going. I understand now that if I keep doing that, I’ll never get anywhere and I’ll never get something worth getting.
Lewis instructs that just like the house in Alice through the Looking Glass, “The true road lies in quite another direction.” If one wants to attain happiness, instead of drifting towards the ring pulled by desire, one should just break the mere thought of it (since one can’t break the ring itself). Friendship, one of the good rings of life, is not to be chased down. Instead one should put an effort to be prepared for it and to walk along it; never chase it down. If one remains faithful,the onion will not cause tears of bitterness but instead it will evoke tears of happiness, for an excellent meal would be to come.