[Myths] give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets. […] It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt.[…] It gets under our skin […] and in general shocks us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives. ( C.S. Lewis Phantastes xi)
This morning I took the kids to the library. They squeal when we go, yes, but I myself get almost giddy when I select a novel from a well-known and loved author. I know it's going to be worth reading and I know it's going to transport me to a place of slow exhalations and minimal worries.
They say that reading enlarges a child's world and I would agree, but for me, reading reduces my world to a beautiful and savory concentration of beauty, rest, and meaning.
Many people think that books are written to educate and we merely read to download information. But reading is so, so much more.
"Whether or not people are aware of the fact, they cannot live without myth, nor can they reach full stature as people without true myths. A proper response to true myth is necessary to moral and spiritual health. Allowing its figurative language free play upon the imagination and yielding to its claim upon one's life is a means by which readers can come to well-being for time and eternity." (Rolland Hein Christian Mythmakers)We have become "too old" indeed if we have lost our capacity to appreciate story. Life--the very depths of our identity--is crafted in the eternal meaning of a long-written story, the Story of our Creator, our Savior and our eternal and coming King.
If we neglect--or completely reject--all that is fantastical and "illogical" than we have denied a deep part of our souls. It's in the creative elements of beauty: painting, cooking, designing, writing, dancing, or making music that we see the "deeper truth" of the why.
Madeleine L'Engle claimed that "our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response to we find truth."
We don't approach the darkness with a calculating dissertation on the logic of our being--though I suppose that may help some--rather, we find meaning in the childlike faith of mystery, wonder, and trust. We return to our roots, appreciating what all can grasp (the sheer awe of Him, His story, and our place in it all).
There's a reason Jesus often taught in parables. He wanted to connect with people on a more-than-academic level. He wasn't there to preach hard-to-grasp concepts (though many of them were challenging ideas anyway); he taught with story. "It's like this..."
And so does fiction transport us to deeper understanding: "Life is like this..." And somehow we rest in the truth unveiled. Never lose that childlike wonder of the myth.
“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be... This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages...the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide... Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I'm with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don't ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child's awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”
― Madeleine L'Engle