Exploring where life and story meet!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A thing of beauty

Why is the human heart and mind fascinated by the forbidden, by the dark, the dangerous, and the questionable?  Why does it fill our movies, our books, our television shows, our social media, and every other format man has invented for communication?  Why do we willingly choose to wallow in the profane and call it pleasure?  Have we lived so long in the dark, like one of those blind fish of the subterranean rivers, that we have lost our ability to see or even comprehend light?  Even in perfection men were discontent; now we dwell in a ruined world and gorge ourselves on things best left alone and wonder at our wretchedness. 

There are things in this world that can make the heart sing or the heart sick, whatever we take in is what we become.  One cannot be too careful, most especially in this media saturated age, in what one peruses.  Perhaps that is why I prefer to flee to the pages of some classic author rather than keep up with the latest pathetic attempt that passes for entertainment in more modern mediums.  Technology, like all inventions, is a two edged sword and can be used for good or ill; it is not the technology but the content that makes a thing good or bad.  I enjoy a good Jane Austen movie as much as (sometimes more than) the book. 

There is yet much of wisdom and beauty yet to be found in the world, but it has become harder to find amidst a sea of mediocre and crass imitators.  Look hard, for it is there.  The older the work, likely the easier your search.  If you cannot find something of beauty wrought by human hands, perhaps a sunset, a seaside, or a mountain will suffice to make your heart sing and turn your thoughts to higher things.  We cannot set our eyes upon the dust and hope to see the stars, nor can we turn our thoughts towards darkness and hope to find enlightenment. 

Joy in the morning

The glaciers are melting, the ice caps are history...it is not global warming, but spring has finally shown up.  Many had thought we had entered a second ice age, but spring simple got lost en route but has finally arrived.  The geese have been standing on ice covered lakes, checking their watches and staring forlornly at the sky like people waiting for a late bus.  There is warmth, sunshine, and life again in the world, and like those flummoxed geese, we too must wait patiently for the end of winter and look expectantly ahead to spring (whatever the metaphor may be in your own life).  For joy truly does come in the morning, though dawn may be long in coming!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weeping lasts for the night...

George MacDonald writes, "Were I asked, what is a fairytale? I should reply, Read Undine: that is a fairytale ... of all fairytales I know, I think Undine the most beautiful."

Find Undine here.

I ran across this quote from George MacDonald some time ago, and curious, I went looking for this story and happily our friends over at project gutenburg have made it available.  It is a sad story, but fraught with beauty and charm, not to mention much food for thought.  In the story, there are sorts of elemental creatures or spirits with all kinds of strange powers yet they lack a soul, therefore when death takes them, they simply cease to be, neither do they suffer sorrow or any lingering guilt or shame.  Yet neither can they truly know joy.  The only way for these creatures to gain a soul, is to marry a mortal, a creature far beneath them in power and strength yet envied for their possession of a soul.  In the tale, one such maiden marries a man, gains a soul and discovers the meaning of sorrow, and that there can be beauty therein.  I will not further spoil the story, but it can definitely inspire some interesting thoughts.

One such thought is that perhaps we should be grateful for our own possession of a soul, though the modern philosophers are doing their best to tell us otherwise.  I do not think you could enjoy this story without one!  This is also a great reminder that true beauty can help us deepen and strengthen our imagination and character.  This short work is much more worth the read than any of the so called classics we were forced to endure in English classes in high school and college.  Perhaps reading would not be a fast dying art if we were exposed to more good stories as children.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wishing on stars

To many, the America God has failed.  They practice a watered down, cultural, feel-good spirituality with no set rules or forms save those they set themselves.  The atheists proclaim this faith to be false, flimsy, and worthless.  The disenchanted say if God exists, He is weak and useless for He did nothing in their hour of need.  They would be right.  For this is not God but a god of our own imagining.  This so-called 'pop machine' god is powerless because he is not.  We think of God as some sort of beneficent fairy godmother who grants our dearest wishes for health, happiness, and riches and then complain when things do not turn out happily ever after.  Wishing upon a star has similar results.  The problem is not with God but with our perception of Him.  He is not a vending machine whose sole purpose is to fulfill all our cravings, whatever they might be.  He is not our servant, but we are His (if we so choose).  We did not make Him, but He us.  Seldom do we consider these minor details in our dealings with the Almighty!  If your vision of God is small, so too must your god be.

The 'Prosperity Gospel' has it all backwards but panders specifically to the American thirst for such a God.  We are told by such theology that if we are 'good' people, God will bless us with material riches and then when this does not happen, people become disappointed and flee the 'faith,' angry with a god that does not exist.  This is not God as He has revealed Himself to us, but rather God as we wish Him to be.  We do not want moral responsibility, we do not want to look like fools to our worldly friends, we do not want to be uncool, we do not want to forgo some pleasure forbidden by an overbearing deity.  Like Peter Pan, we do not want to grow up.  God tells us who He is, how to find Him, what He wishes of us, but like naughty children, we pretend not to hear or creatively reinterpret that which was told us.  He has promised times of embarrassment, suffering, tedium, and perhaps even death to His faithful (is that a great recruit slogan or what?), thus we should not be surprised when they come.  Yet He has also promised never to leave us, to give us a way out, to bear our sorrows, to give us His joy and peace, to add to our virtue and wisdom, to draw us closer to Himself.  Materially we may never prosper.  Fame may always forsake us.  Our relations may think us mad and our friends think us boors or fools.  But it matters little, for we can know He who made Everything and knows All, the Author of Life, Himself.  All else pales in comparison to that!  'For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26 (ESV)).

God is not small, neither does He call us to a life of smallness.  Each of us has something unique within ourselves that in God's hands can bless the whole world.  It is not an easy life and perhaps not a comfortable one, but since when has anything worth doing been either?  We are called to something greater than ourselves, greater than this drab, selfish existence we call life.  Are you ready for an adventure?  One that will last not a lifetime, but all Eternity?  I think we can rightly trust the Author of all stories to provide a most interesting quest, but we must first be willing to get off the couch.  We look within to find god, finding it small and dark and cramped.  We look without and behold, the heavens are ablaze with stars and their Maker waits only for us to truly seek Him.  Forget the tiny god, embrace Him as He is, or forget Him altogether.  

Grass of the field

Winter is usually long, drab, and cold here on the 'tundra', this year especially as we are still feet deep in snow and the temperature continues to think it is February.  But so too can life be tedious, drear, and colorless, at least if we do not have a reason to live, a purpose, a story, an adventure of our own.  I was reminded of this today, when the whole world was radically changed by the simple phenomenon of fog, freezing temperatures, and the joyous light of a new risen sun.  It is a thing called hoar frost, small frosty crystals that grow on every available surface from large branches to the smallest thorns and twigs, coating the world in diamond dust that sparkles in thegolden radiance of morning.  It is a reason to like winter and reminds me that what to me is ordinary, drab, and drear, God can suddenly transform into something breathtaking.  'If He so clothes the grass of the field,' what could He do with a human heart and life?  Feeling a little drab lately?  There is hope! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

A labor of love

I have always wondered about the creative drive found within almost everyone.  Whether we cook, paint, write, sing, quilt, take pictures, play basketball, or design video games, there is something innate within the souls of men to create beauty.  This above all things, to me, witnesses to our divine origins for we are made (wonderfully and fearfully) in the image of God and He among all else is the Creator thus are we driven to create.  Monkeys have no poetry and the music of birds is more a tool than an art form.  Men alone have the capacity for beauty, wonder, and joy and all this we try to capture by manipulating the world around us in any number of ways.  Birds weave nests and monkeys use sticks as tools, but neither has ever produced a tapestry or a paint brush.  How does art (in all its forms) develop from an evolutionary perspective when it has no survival value?  We attempt it for sheer joy!  I have wondered why God bothered making everything when He knew the consequences that would follow, the disaster we would make of His masterwork the moment He gave us the keys.  Sometimes I think it must be for the sheer joy of creating and enjoying what has been created.  Much as a gardener will plant flowers even though she knows that weeds are inevitable; she loves her art enough to tolerate the weeding to carry on.  It can only be love!  But how can mortal mind comprehend such a love?  We can only be still and know.