Building The Bridge

They took turns swinging across the gully on the rope. It was a glorious autumn day, and if you looked up as you swung, it gave you the feeling of floating. Jess leaned back and drank in the rich, clear color of the sky. He was drifting, drifting like a fat white lazy cloud back and forth across the blue.
“Do you know what we need?” Leslie called to him. Intoxicated as he was with the heavens, he couldn’t imagine needing anything anything on earth.
“We need a place,” she said, “just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it.” Jess came swinging back and dragged his feet to stop. She lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “It might be a whole secret country,” she continued, “and you and I would be the rulers of it.”

Katherine Paterson, Bridge To Terabithia

Imagination is a wonderful thing and the imagination of a child is the most wonderful of all. Unencumbered by the encroaching walls of adult society, a child is free to experience anything in the universe. Before he or she is told what does not exist and what is not possible, a child can create anything imaginable.

The Lord God created the world and all its wonders from His own imagination. He made air and water, darkness and light, plants and animals, men and women, and then He called it “Good”. He infused mankind with the ability to think, to imagine, to commune with Him.

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. How then can we humans imitate our Creator? We use the imaginations inherent in the souls of mankind. J.R.R. Tolkien, the great author, called this process “subcreation”. We cannot create out of nothing, as God has, but we can create our own worlds within His.

An artist uses colors to create magnificent pictures that evoke wondrous feelings. An author uses words to create worlds that cannot exist outside of human imagination. Songwriters take simple sounds and weave them into a musical mosaic that pleases the ears and moves the heart. Movie directors put them together to show us things we never thought possible. Video game designers open the door to magnificent new places, allowing us to take part in the subcreation of another.

At the heart of all subcreation is the imagination, and imagination comes from the mind of a child. In Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis speaks of a make-believe land populated by talking animals in which he played as a child. Had any adults known of these flights of fancy at the time they would likely have brushed them off as the idle imaginings of childhood, soon to be forgotten. Yet how many people, children and adults alike, have been touched by the wonder of the Chronicles of Narnia. The wonder grows deeper when one sees the reality of Christ mirrored in the story. The Creator is revealed in the subcreation.

Imagination is a joyful experience. A child who is lost in another world of their own making may be called absent-minded and a slacker, but who could ever say he was dour? Subcreation is the highest calling of we the created. In Paterson’s novel, Jess finds joy in his imaginary kingdom of Terabithia that gives him the strength to endure the rest of his life.

In his autobiographical treatise, Lewis writes of a feeling I know dearly. He recalls the later years of his childhood being bereft of joy, full of boarding schools and few friends. Yet there was a moment when he remembered joy itself, and it came with the stirrings of imagination.

This long winter broke up in a single moment… Spring is the inevitable image, but this was not gradual like Nature’s springs. It was as if the Arctic itself, all the deep layers of secular ice, should change not in a week nor in an hour, but instantly, into a landscape of grass and primroses and orchards in bloom, deafened with bird songs and astir with running water. I can lay my hand on the very moment; there is hardly any fact I know so well, though I cannot date it. Someone must have left in the schoolroom a literary periodical: The Bookman, perhaps, or the Times Literary Supplement. My eye fell upon a headline and a picture, carelessly, expecting nothing. A moment later, as the poet says, ‘The sky had turned round.’
What I had read was the words Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods. What I had seen was one of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to that volume. I had never heard of Wagner, nor of Siegfried. I thought the Twilight of the Gods means the twilight in which the gods lived. How did I know, at once and beyond question, that this was no Celtic, or silvan, or terrestrial twilight? But so it was. Pure ‘Northerness’ engulfed me: a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity… there arose at once, almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I had now lacked for years, that I was returning at last from exile and desert lands to my own country; and the distance of the Twilight of the Gods and the distance of my own past Joy, both unattainable, flowed together into a single, unendurable sense of desire and loss, which suddenly became one with the loss of the whole experience, which, as I now stared round that dusty schoolroom like a man recovering from unconsciousness, had already vanished, had eluded me at the very moment when I could first say It is. And at once I knew (with fatal knowledge) that to ‘have it again’ was the supreme and only important object of desire.

C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy

Lewis spent the rest of his life in the process of subcreation, for it is there that joy is found. It is not the minute details of publishing a crafted work but in the opening of your mind to the wonders of imagination that finds joy. Adults are often concerned about the things of this world – rent, work, groceries, car payments – to close their eyes and open their minds. Sure, these things are important to life. However, if this is all there is to life, then life is not worth living.

Life is a journey, and our imagination can take us much further than our feet. Who can not feel a shiver upon hearing Captain Kirk, flying into the unknown, “…to boldly go where no man has gone before!” What is there in a simple song that makes “…the road goes ever on and on…” so magnetic when spoken by Gandalf the Wizard? What motivated explorers such as Magellan, Columbus, Lewis and Clark? They had to see what was out there. It is the same thing that motivates authors and artists, songwriters and moviemakers. There are infinite worlds out there, waiting to be discovered!

Here then is the answer to the questions begged by my previous post. Where do we go when we realize that modern life is lived in a small box, whose walls close in like a collapsing cave? When the whole world is mapped and civilized and paved and there are no more new worlds? Our imagination can take us anywhere. Like a child who does not know the cynicism of life, we can reach beyond ourselves. Narnia and Terabithia are only the beginning. There is a secret country for each of us, a country that can at once take us beyond ourselves and reveal an aspect of our True Country.

Plato spoke of ideals. Everything that exists is merely a reflection of the real thing, as best as we can see it. All the horses we see are imperfect reflections of the ideal horse, much like a shimmering visage of a mountain turns out to be a reflection of the real mountain on the water. Life is like this. Our existence is merely a reflection of what eternity holds for the children of God. This existence is finite and solid, while eternity will be infinite and perfect.

Our God-given imagination gives us a peek through the keyhole of eternity. Until he is used to the world, a child can conceive of wonderful and fantastic things. Yet we cannot remain children forever. John Timmerman writes here about his first-hand experience with subcreation.

I learned… that the world badly wanted me to grow up. And to grow up is to strip yourself of gauzy clouds of wonder and put on heavier garb — woolens and cottons that protect you from winter’s cold or summer’s heat.

John H. Timmerman, Tolkien’s Crucible of Faith: The Sub-Creation

Growing out of childhood does not have to mean the death of imagination. Indeed, the examples of Tolkien, Lewis, and many other subcreators shows us that we can hold on to our infinite imaginations forever, no matter how hard the world tries to bring us back down to earth.

The great literary character Don Quixote de la Mancha was ridiculed for attacking windmills as if they were giants. To everyone else, they were obviously plain old windmills. But to Quixote, they were clearly evil giants that must be defeated. To the subcreator, well, they might be giants after all.

Of course, he carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That’s insane. But, thinking that they might be… Well, all the best minds used to think the world was flat. But, what if it isn’t? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what they might be, why, we’d all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.

Justin Playfair (George C. Scott), They Might Be Giants (Source)

People grow up and grow out of their own imaginations. They enter an adult world, a world of taxes and mortgages and politics. They do their best to pull children and childlike adults back to the so-called ‘real world.’ The satirical newspaper The Onion reportson the safety hazard that a child’s imagination poses and makes a more logical point than perhaps it should.

According to McMillan, children can suffer broken bones, head trauma, and even fatal injuries from unsupervised exposure to childlike awe. “If your children are allowed to unlock their imaginations, anything from a backyard swing set to a child’s own bedroom can be transformed into a dangerous undersea castle or dragon’s lair,” McMillan said. “But by encouraging your kids to think linearly and literally, and constantly reminding them they can never be anything but human children with no extraordinary characteristics, you can better ensure that they will lead prolonged lives.”

An imagination is a powerful and dangerous thing. It makes life worth living, and opens our minds to the wonders of the universe. With just a thought, the mundane becomes extraordinary. We use our imaginations in imitation of our God, and we look forward to the day when all is made perfect and this world passes away. You could say that imagination is a bridge to eternity.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

1 Corinthians 13:9-12

Comfortable America

Fred Reed explains the character of our postmodern society.

One hears much admiration from politicians of the American “national character,” by which seems to be meant the aggregate of prevailing values of the majority of the population. I gather that Americans tend to regard their national character as comprising such things as freedom, independence, individualism, and self-reliance. One thinks of Daniel Boone or Marlboro Man.

In fact we no longer have these qualities and probably never will again. Generally we now embody their opposites. Modern society has become a hive of largely conformist, closely regulated and generally helpless employees who depend on others for nearly everything.

When we as a society look in the mirror we see the nearly mythological heroes of our past. Politicians see themselves as modern George Washingtons and Abraham Lincolns. Feminists think themselves successors to Susan B. Anthony while Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson believe they are following in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. DuBois.

Take away the mirror and wipe the scales from our eyes and it becomes clear that we fall far short of our historical heroes. Each generation has confronted the issues of the day, but I fear that this one will not. We have become too comfortable to step out of our everyday lives.

The existence of the World Wide Web has created the most potentially knowledgeable generation in world history. Even the poorest American can read news from a thousand sources, encyclopaedic articles on a million subjects, and the inane babble of a billion people. We could spend so much time reading that we forget to live, in fact.

We do not know fear. My great-great-grandfather’s generation had to work the earth in order to survive. My great-grandfather’s knew the reality of complete and utter loss through the Depression, while tyranny threatened the entire world nearby. My grandfather’s generation lived with a real fear that entire cities might be obliterated with nuclear weapons.

What do we know? We are afraid that the government might not have enough money to mail us checks when we grow old. We fear that our neighbor has more digital television channels than we do. We scream at protest rallies because there is a chance a government agent might read our emails.

We have grocery stores that never close. We have an expanding bureaucracy that provides meaningless jobs to people who know no world outside of their white-collar office. We have rules and regulations, acts and codes, all to keep us safe and secure and obedient. The Man comes around and extracts a fine if he can think of a legal reason to do so. Society is a tightly controlled framework. We are moved about on strings by a few elite puppeteers.

C.S. Lewis wrote a short treatise about the Men Without Chests. Plato explained that the head controls the belly through the chest. Sigmund Freud would say that the ego rules over the id through the superego. It means the same thing. Our animal passions are governed by reason. Yet we as a society are being constantly molded over time into subservience.

As Lewis says:

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

The comfortable walls of a modern office is a prison compared to the wide open spaces of a worldwide frontier. Sure, modern life is safer. Our life expectancy has skyrocketed, infant mortality is rare, and we have conquered many diseases that once killed millions. Yet is this worth what we have lost?

If asked what kind of future awaits us, many would guess that it will resemble George Orwell’s dystopia of 1984. That is, a supreme party controls the populace with constant supervision, threatening the people with death for the slightest transgression, while maintaining an endless war in order to provide a reason for its own power. Yet I do not see this happening.

No, the future is that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The institutions of antiquity such as marriage and family will be destroyed. The ruling class will keep the common man content with endless pleasure and constant distraction. We will be a people ruled by our bellies, or our id as Freud would say. We are almost there, can you not see it?

Gone is the man who can take care of himself. Gone is the family that can uproot and move into an unknown land to start anew. Gone is the community that is self-sufficient and united. Life has become so comfortable that we cannot even notice that we are dying like a withering vine.

But who cares. American Idol is on.

The Face Of Feminism

Amanda Marcotte speaks for many, and that is truly frightening.

To see that abortion is moral, you just need to look at women as human beings with lives that have value. When a woman chooses abortion, she’s not indulging some guilty pleasure, like sneaking in a round of adultery at lunch, to bring up a genuinely immoral action that should not be criminal. She is probably thinking about her family’s well-being and yes, her own well-being. Taking your own well-being into consideration is called “selfish” by anti-choicers, but I think valuing yourself is a moral good, even if you are female. In fact, especially if you are female, since you live in a world where having self-esteem can be an act of moral courage that requires some defiance. If I got pregnant, I wouldn’t even have to suffer much mental strain to realize that abortion would be the best choice for myself, my family, and my relationship. Abortion, not just the right to abortion but the actual procedure, is a moral good that helps women and families and should be honored as such. Women who get abortions should be recognized as people who can accurately weigh their choices and make the most moral one.

Updated to add: Also, saying that abortion is morally questionable, even if you’re pro-choice, is a huge insult to the brave men and women who risk life and limb to perform them. Being an abortion doctor is a pretty thankless task, because a bunch of “Christian” men who have emasculation issues are gunning to kill you in hopes that brings their huevos back. Meanwhile, other anti-choicers are running around claiming that being an abortionist is like this super great career that people only indulge in for the money. This is horseshit and pro-choicers need to push back and remind everyone that abortionists are heroes, who put up with all sorts of abuse because they want to help women.

The rise of the abortion movement is a triumph of selfish convenience over righteousness. Females like Amanda desire complete freedom to live their lives as they wish without any interference from others or consequences of their own actions. Killing your own unborn child because you have neither the desire nor the inclination to bring it into the world, to follow through with the consequences of your behaviour, is akin to running over a man in the street because you are late to work.

Amanda, and many others as well, have transcended what was once the pro-abortion position outlined by President Clinton as “Safe, legal, and rare.” Now they consider prenatal murder to be a higher calling, a moral right. Amanda goes on to proclaim the so-called doctors who destroy these tiny lives as “heroes”.

It is ironic that those who condemn Christians for adhering to morality in a post-moral age should call their own reprehensible behaviour “moral”.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!”
(Isaiah 5:20-21)

“Woe” is a scary word if you believe in the God of justice.

The Global Warming Dogma

Ellen Goodman, columnist for the Boston Globe, compares skeptics of man-made global warming with Holocaust deniers.

I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

I wonder if the climate change faithful will ever realize how far they have drifted from reality. Will it be before or after an inquisition is set up to make sure everyone believes the officially mandated creed?

In the 1960s the hippies revolted against the established society. Young people were doing the opposite of their parents, no matter where it took them. Thesis:antithesis. Now those flower children have grown up, not realizing that they are the establishment. Their views are espoused as unassailable truth. Debate is not permitted. Skeptics are heretics to be silenced.

Global warming has the potential to destroy our society. No, I do not mean that climate change will alter our environment to the point that humanity faces extinction, rather I mean that I see draconian measures on the horizon that will be used by the political elite. They will say that certain oppressions and legislation is necessary for the survival of the planet. Our freedom will not be taken away in the name of security, but in the name of environmentalism.

Global warming is the religion for the 21st Century. A bleak future awaits those deemed heretical by the ruling elite.

The End Of The World (As We Know It)

TIME Magazine is spreading the word about an imminent threat to life on this planet.

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Yes, you read that right. Just 34 years ago, the world’s most eminent climatologists were prophesying the end of the world via a new ice age. While details of these prophecies have changed, the attitude of the political and scientific elite has not.

Surely you have heard of the recent calls for the American Meteorological Society to decertify members who express skepticism of the official creed called global warming. Led by celebrities such as former Vice President Al Gore and Charles, Prince of Wales, there is a growing movement toward changing the infrastructure of the world in order to stave off the destruction of mankind via the emission of greenhouse gases.

There is nobody as shortsighted as a celebrity with a cause. To those who are caught in the raging throng, nothing in the world is as important as stopping this global warming. It is a religion. Heretics must be punished. The leaders must be venerated. The world must be evangelized.

My personal belief is that if global warming is indeed occurring, then it is a natural force. This world is too big for mankind to destroy. In any case, the potential exists for mankind to do more damage trying to fix what is wrong than by letting it be. I remember reading about plans from the 1970s to melt the ice caps in order to stave off global cooling. What would that have wrought?

Anyway, I feel fine.

Personal Jesus

Jared at the Thinklings carves up the post-modern idea of a personal, relative Jesus.

I’d suggest even more errant Jesuses propagated by American evangelicalism — Success Guru Jesus, Mystical Experience Jesus, Politically Correct Jesus, Fundamentalist Jesus, Patriotic Jesus, Co-Pilot Buddy Jesus, Tony Robbins Jesus, Personal ATM Jesus, and last but certainly not least My Own “Personal” Jesus.

How do we sort through these myriad Jesuses, each of which has just enough truth in them (even if just a dash) to make them dangerous, to find the real Person Jesus Christ? I think we ought to start with the Gospels, which usually are the last texts consulted. We think we are quite familiar with them, but we are not. We think we know their stories and have been building on them for years, but the army of false Jesuses marching in the hearts of well-meaning Christians testifies otherwise.

Being a Christian in America is easy. Sure, the establishment looks on you with disdain, and a few look down on you as if you are an ignorant yokel. This is nothing compared to the life of a Christian in 3rd Century Rome, or in 21st Century Indonesia or China.

A church that is not enduring persecution has time and space to grow complacent. The Church of Christ in America, without the constant threat of annihilation, has time to develop an ideology of comfort, a doctrine of prosperity. Our basic needs are taken care of. We worry not about food, shelter, money, or the other amenities of the good life. We are not rabble. We are not desperate. The God we desire is not one of the basics of life but of more important matters.

The American Christian can find a Jesus to fit his or her own life. The ideologue can worship a Jesus who stood up and spoke truth to power. The environmentalist can worship a Jesus who cared for nature. The hippie can worship a Jesus who rejected the social mores of the establishment.

I could go on, but the point is made. We cannot let American complacency lead us to seek out a Jesus who is but a reflection of our own desires. Jared makes the point that we must return to scripture, to the gospel, in order to meet the real Jesus, the living and breathing Jesus. He leaves us with a warning, however.

The Word of God — both the living Word and the written Word — is transformational revelation. If we are not being transformed by Christ and Scripture, we are not reading Christ and Scripture correctly.

And if we constantly find them confirming our sense of self and our prejudices, leaving us unrepentant or unmoved, we have the chief indication we are looking down the deep, dark well of our own heart and seeing our own reflection.

We cannot let our Lord and Saviour be defined by our culture or ourselves. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is something that defines us instead. The primary source of that knowledge is scripture. We must cut through the detritus built up by years of comfort and complacency and study God’s Word. It is there where we meet our Saviour.