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


  1. I like to think that Narnia is out there somewhere. But even if it's not, the last section is my favorite. I'll have to pick some favorite characters of my own to carry around with me as I go through my day. In fact, I've got a few in my head already. Great job, Maddy.

    1. A few times as I was reading some great books recently I thought of that verse in Hebrews about how we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have trusted God before us, and that remembering that encourages us to press on in our fight against sin and run the race well. :)

  2. wonderful...or should i say magical

  3. I've got goose bumps, Maddy. Reading this.