Sunday, January 22, 2012

a far country (part 2)

read part one first

After making the connection between the longing I found in myself and God, I lived for a while in another stage, in which I delighted when the 'Valar Longing' blew through me, knowing it was the echo of the anthem of my homeland.

      And now lately, for a while, I guess, the Lord has been teaching me something else. It's something, as seems to often happen, that I've taught fictional characters of mine before I realized the lesson was for me. It is, in essence, Live in your own story. Because it's magic.
      The beginning of this stage was a series of disillusionments. Perhaps I can trace it to when it struck me, let us say age 12?, that Anne of Green Gables longed for Camelot. I longed for Green Gables. This was a problem. If Anne couldn't see how magical her time was, how could we expect Arthur and Guinevere to realize it of their own? Hence, by extension, if I did in fact live in either of those milieus, I could not be expected to enjoy them. Well, that is the interpretation I give it now. At the time I only despaired more--ever the romantic fatalist. Times would only get worse and worse, I moaned, become more and more quotidian, lose all the luster humanity's been steadily soiling since Eden. One by one, my magic worlds fell down. Turns out medieval times were full of disease and physical discomfort. Turns out people in colonial America weren't all that much more virtuous than us today. Turns out Abe Lincoln wasn't The Perfect President. And Middle Earth and Narnia? Well, what's the use of wishing? They're not even real. All I could do was wait, wait until I was swept into that Far Country of His and mine. The wondrously false bottom of the things that moved me had fallen through to reveal God as the object of my desires. Alright, I knew the secret now. Whenever I heard the echoes, I acknowledged them, I nodded, I registered their paperwork. Message from God. Reminder of my homeland. Check. It's not them, I knew. Don't obsess over them. They're only signposts. Colorfully painted. Empty in themselves.
      Thus the wonder drained itself out of my life. Not totally, of course. But as soon as I caught myself in it, I  redirected myself toward the Concept of God, and there the buck stopped. Er, so to speak.
      Perhaps I journeyed a while in this drab landscape: only normalness behind and before until eternity finally began; no magic to be found.
      Until I found it in the most unlikely of places: Right Here, and Right Now.

Of course it had been there all along, though I had scorned it.

Ha! To think I knew the secret of the sunsets, hobbits, and symphonies. I knew His name, in part, perhaps. But to know Him... this can be no mere check-the-box recognition.

We are all his story. This is it. We're living it. As one writer/musician put it:
I tell my son, "We are in Star Wars; we are pursued by Orcs we must battle; there is a Voldemort that has already been destroyed by a death and resurrection, but one last Horcrux remains."
While we're quoting, here's another: (C.S. Lewis on The Lord of the Rings)
'But why,' (some ask), 'why, if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?' Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality. One can see the principle at work in his characterization. Much that in a realistic work would be done by 'character delineation' is here done simply by making the character an elf, a dwarf, or a hobbit. The imagine beings have their insides on the outside; they are visible souls. And man as a whole, Man pitted against the universe, have we seen him at all till we see that he is like a hero in a fairy tale? from On Stories and Other Essays on Literature
      Books and I have had a long and storied past. Some time ago I became acutely conscious of one effect they have, which is to make me ignore the people around me. With a strong sense of sacrifice, I would wrench the cover shut and play a game of Candyland, or respond to questions with polysyllabic answers. A better cure: to realize that I live in a story. As I've gotten older I've grown less romantic, and more so, in a sense. That is to say, I'm no longer offended, like Anne Shirley, by prosaic things. This lack of repulsion to things from the '70s, major-key music, and Tupperware was an adultish phenomenon that from my perspective as a child meant you didn't care for beauty. Really it's learning to see beauty in more places.
      And so it's getting easier to see the kaleidoscope that is this marvelous mess of made-ness, this creation, this story we live in. And I know exploration of it will take through eternity, because it is the declaration of the Infinite, the spoken world of the I Am.

      And I live in it. Someone is writing this story, even this little story of mine. It's no accident I've wandered through these stages of thought. God is writing it, and he's teaching me to live in it.
      Frodo and I are not so different as I thought. We both have authors. We both have a quest. I cheered him on as he inched up Mount Doom; and he's in my mind, cheering me on, as I inch out of bed in the morning. We're in this together, Frodo and Anne and Harry and I.

      Next time: Why England Actually Is Still Magical and Other Thoughts

Friday, January 20, 2012

a far country

      For some time I have been convinced that England is, quite literally, a magical land. It doesn't take a long acquaintance with me to discern this belief. Apparently I rather exude Anglophilia. For my birthday this week I was given, among other things, a Union Jack keychain, a 5-foot scroll of British subway stations, and a book called The Inklings of Oxford. I whooped over the keychain, exclaimed over the scroll, and sighed, long and deeply, over the book. I began to fear that the effect of these new belongings would only be an enlargement of the achy hole inside me that throbs a little whenever I think of that magic island across the pond, and dream of the day I may finally set foot on it...

      When I was small--and this is perhaps a common experience, but to a young and romantic mind all most peculiarly felt ills are one's own only--when I was medium small, say nine, or eleven, I gave a name to the feeling of hopeless homesickness I always got within a certain proximity to The Lord of the Rings in any form. I called it the Valo/ar Longing. I didn't spell it out clearly in my mind; to me it meant both 'valor' in our English sense, and Valar, as in Middle Earth's angel-like beings. Ahem, yes. True story. (But really, ought I be ashamed? Children are ridiculous, but not laughable.)
      It was good to have a name, because I got that feeling a lot. Reading the best books, watching the best movies, listening to certain music--they all evoked in me this sort of searingly sweet isolation--a feeling that I was totally alone in the world, and that all I wanted to be close to was as far away as Narnia when the wardrobe's back was solid again.
      I've since read about this experience, from C.S. Lewis, mainly. Perhaps you have, too (and if so, you've been waiting for me to mention this). His essay The Weight of Glory speaks eloquently to this as a human experience. I'll quote him briefly:
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard,  news  from  a  country  we  have  never yet visited.
      I used to despair when I listened to that soul-stabbingly sweet music. I plunged into it with a fatalistic desperation. It hurt to long so much, yes, but hurting while in its presence was better than pretending it didn't exist, this thing (whatever it was) that I wanted so badly.
      And then I was shown that, yes, this longing was for the Person and Place for which I was made--my Maker and Paradise.
      That hole, we're always trying to fill it. That's what obsessions are. Somehow I feel like nerds (like myself) exhibit this in a way that is easiest to observe. World of Warcraft crazies, for example. Harry Potter fanatics. OK, Lord of the Rings enthusiasts. But also people enthusiastic about anything, really. Somehow, most of the time, from the outside it's easy to see how the passion often exceeds the worthiness of the object. That's why it looks so ridiculous. But we all do it. We lavish the pent-up, well-deep desires our immortal souls are surging with on objects whose capacity is insufficient to hold them. And so observers call out our folly and we're left empty.
      Of course we're made for more.

And there's more I've got to say here. But I'll save it for a Part 2. (And probably more.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why blog?

      I really feel like I'm writing out into the void here, but, well--that's alright, eh?

     This is an exposition of Why I Haven't Been Blogging (Though No One Cares) and Why Perhaps I Should. I'm fully aware of the annoying and amateurish nature of "Sorry I haven't posted!" posts. But this--hopefully--is more than that.

      I keep coming back here and drafting posts, with things to say, wanting to write, but rationalizations my mind obligingly produces scare me off. To illustrate my point: Counting this one, I've published five posts here, and I've got seven unfinished, unpublished drafts sitting there, many of them only titles--the Reasons scared me away before I could go beyond translucent, shimmering concept.
      Some of the Reasons Against Me Blogging:
1. I'm sixteen. I don't have anything to say that's worth anyone's time.
2. I'm just a and knock-off. Minus the possession of adorable children, which knocks off a large segment of potential source material. Also, minus years of life and wisdom (see point #1).
3. No one reads this blog anyway. (And why should they?)
4. Much of what I have to say is pointing to other things that have impacted me--books, ideas, music, movies, experiences. Is that a legitimate thing to blog about?
Insert: I've been experimenting for a long time (years) with a sort of magazine/journal/bulletin board blog (known under the name 'Spotlight' on my old Wordpress blog, and briefly as 'Good Stuff' various other places [mainly places I haven't published]) that is just a place to highlight such "things that have impacted me". It was hard, though, to separate merely 'Spotlight'-type post items, and all-out post items. Because usually when I'm thinking about something, it's because something made me think of it. And when I'd want to share something, it's because it made me think. So I got rid of the 'Spotlight' and 'Good Stuff' templates, and made this new blog, on which to happily marry the two.
And promptly stopped blogging.
5. Much of what I find myself wanting to say demands excessive context. Not back-story, but a context of language and expression--the kind of self-referencing a book can indulge in because of its establishment of a language, a set of terms and shared experiences.
Insert: Granted, the reason books can do so (and the two blogs I mentioned above, which I love) is because enough's been said to establish said dialogue. Implication: If you write it, this will come.

Well, then. There you have it. I'm feeling much chipperer. If you write through the junk, the words often drag you through, too.
Matter of fact, I'm feeling perky enough to write out a happy list now.
To Blog Well
1. Define your space. Write your book. Establish your language. Be yourself.
2. Include pictures. Because they are nice and interesting.
3. Don't take yourself so seriously.

Have a picture:

Nope, you got me. I didn't take that picture. I did, however, find it. (here)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

on Writing

from Annie Dillard:
     Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.
      The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life's strength: that page will teach you to write. 

from The Writing Life