Monday, September 30, 2013

Exploring the Tangible Terrible & the Magical, Mystical Mystery

"If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world."
-C.S. Lewis
The first time I found this quote by one of my favorite authors, I longed for some portal that would transport me to this other world I knew I was really created for. Could I be like Lucy Pevensie and step into some magical wardrobe where all the Daughters of Eve were revealed in their true form to be Princesses and Queens? Where could I find the ship that would carry me to the shores of Middle Earth or Faerie?

My desire for this other world was so strong I decided to start breaking it down, what is it about those places that seem more real than this place called Earth? Here's some of the things I learned...

The Tangible Terrible 
In our world, Earth, we, present-day people, have so carefully wrapped ourselves up in dreams and bubbles. What I mean is, we have shut the world out and live safely behind hidden screens of computers, TV and video games. None of these things are wrong in proportion, but when most of our lives consist of us hiding behind these things we forget how to interact with the world outside our door. We fear like Bilbo or Frodo Baggins that once we step onto the Road there's no knowing where we will be swept away. Strangely enough, this is exactly what excites us about Narnia, Middle Earth and Faerie. There's nothing to hide behind in those worlds. In those other worlds the protagonist is forced to deal with the terrible tangible world they find themselves. Their fingernails are caked with dirt, the laugh lines on their faces are smudged with grime that won't come away. To me this sounds beautiful and terrible. Terrible in the "totally awesome" sense. However, stick me in the middle of the forest and I'll start freaking out about all the little bugs that happen to cross my path. This is mostly because I like many others, spend a lot of my time, hiding behind the computer or TV, I want this to change, I want to embrace life around me, I want to get dirty.

Cultural Wells
Another vast difference I've seen about these other worlds is traditions and the deep wells of culture that permeate every part of life. Living in this modern time things like Common Sense are not common anymore. We live in an age where we can do what we want, when we want and we don't have to worry about how it will affect anyone else. We get tattoos for the sake of getting a tattoo, we pierce our ears because everyone else is getting their ears pierced. We have trends that last for a moment and then we are forced to keep up with the newest and latest thing.

Unfortunately, these things sometimes mean the depth of our culture is lost in all the newest trends and fashion. Why else does this current generation go looking for typewriters or old books, or suitcases from the 1920's? We are searching for the depth of our culture, because what we have today only lasts for a moment. We're the microwave generation and demand everything now. But, in these other worlds things take time- sometimes years.

People in these worlds still got tattoos, but they were given with a purpose, they were used to identify who they were or the calling they had on their lives. People in these worlds still got piercings too, but again it was done with a purpose instead of it just being because. Common Sense not only exists, but there's also the unspoken Rules of Conduct. There are things like the Welcome Cup which, whether you like the person or not, you will offer it to them, because of common courtesy. Men in these stories cared more about honor than their own lives. Have we fallen short of something key to our society in this?

Journey = Story, not Blip
When I look at people traveling in these other worlds it takes time, with our modern conveniences of cars and planes, our stories have started to lose some of their depth because we count those times in the car or on planes as the blip in the timeline, instead of counting them as big parts of the story. If we counted the journey of Frodo and Sam as the blip to when they get to Mount Doom so much of their story would be gone and Sam's love and sacrifice would lose almost all of it's poignancy and depth. So maybe our story is really in the journey and not the destination.

Magical, Mystical Mystery
I think one of the things I love more than anything is the Great Mystery that permeates these stories. Only in fantasy is it possible for many people to experience that magical mystery of a Creator, or Someone higher than them. It's through these stories that we see more of what Love looks like in the flesh. Aslan is a perfect example of this. I just watched the Chronicles of Narnia the other day, I could probably write a book on the things these stories show me, but what I want to focus on now is the Majesty of Aslan. His character screams of mystery and magic. With one breath he turns stone into living flesh, with one growl he can scare the most evil witch. Even the massive water god waits for a small nod of approval from him before the god can wreck havoc on the bridge that's stopped its flow. And the more you get to know him, the bigger he becomes because we can comprehend more about him. Perhaps there is something about the idea of Magic that helps us come a little closer to the One who created us all. It's almost like magic opens a hidden door for us to experience more of His character. My words fail me for the perfect description of the AWESOME RAW AMAZINGNESS of His Mystical Mysterious Self...

There's so much I could say about Fantasy awakening in us something unique, but I will leave you with this quote and let you mull if over for yourself. For if I gave you all the answers, then there would be no adventure and thrill of discovery for yourself. Not that I have it all figured out myself...
"...Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it..."
-Jeremiah 6:16

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