"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Thursday, April 25, 2013

When stories are truer than reality

On the flat screen on the wall (just right of the fireplace, just under the horse painting) flickers Shadowfax in the meadow, Rohan of the hills, and Eowyn in the great hall. 

Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?
Eowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.
~Lord of the Rings

And I sit on a couch of faded blue as the credits trickle down and Enya sings about the West, and I wonder—is this it? Is this life I have chosen all there is—to get up early, to work through the day as the sun brightens and fades, to go to bed early and sleep in the same bed as all the days before, to make enough money to buy the same food to live the same life to cry the same tears until all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire?

When the Lord has put such a desire in me for so much more—to fight for Middle Earth, to bleed for my people, to set souls free from the spitting snakes that bind them—then I can only believe that He has made me to pursue it.

I have to believe it.

For if life is less than my greatest dreams, if the truth about this world that goes straight to my soul is a liar, if Middle Earth has more inherit glory than Planet Earth—then fiction is better than reality, my God is not who I believe Him to be, and I dedicate myself to living in my made-up world:

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.

And with that decision, life opens to me—all of life—the life that makes this world as wild and breathtaking and terrible and beautiful as any Rivendell or Mordor or Shire. The battles just as great, the risk just as high, and the love just as real. The same cutting feeling of maia that causes me to dig my fingernails into my palms when Sam talks about the great stories, the same agony that makes me bite my lip when Aragorn goes to certain death at Mordor, the same desire that makes me curl up and sigh when Eowyn goes to war—those stories only affect me because they were meant for me to live.

I don’t know how to live them, sometimes. But I don’t think that always matters so much, in the end. Because once you believe in the greater stories, the stories seem to then find you.

Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?
Eowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.
Aragorn: You are a daughter of kings, a shield maiden of Rohan. I do not think that will be your fate.

~Lord of the Rings