Waking Up: Taking Solace in the Escape of Fairy-stories and Awaiting the Return of Christ with Joy

Waking Up: Taking Solace in the Escape of Fairy-stories and Awaiting the Return of Christ with Joy July 9, 2016

David Russell Mosley

מלאך גינה בתל אביב Date: 6 March 2010, 12:15:34;Own work Author, Sagive SEO (CC BY-SA 3.0)
מלאך גינה בתל אביב
Date: 6 March 2010, 12:15:34; Own work
Author, Sagive SEO (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Ordinary Time
9 July 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Readers,

I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I don’t feel like I have the energy necessary to do just about anything. I started a post on sacramental ontology and I hope to finish it, but honestly, I was bored by it and its a subject in which I have both professional and personal interest. I’m tired, both literally and metaphorically. That is, I wish I could be asleep right now, but I’m pretty sure my twins would destroy the house. But I’m also tired of life. Not in any kind of suicidal way, I, all thanks be to God, haven’t felt that way since college. But life is tiring me out.

My family and I currently live with my in-laws, in part because my son Edwyn still had cancer when we first moved back, and in part because at the time I hadn’t yet finished my PhD. Now my PhD is done (I graduated in December) but I still haven’t found full-time work. Right now, best case scenario for my family finally getting a place of our own is me working part time at two or three different universities, two online, one six hours away in Connecticut while my wife works part-time at a local bakery (because if she worked full-time I don’t know how either I’d get my work done or how we’d afford the child-care and health insurance we’d need). So, for right now, I’m the primary parent at home. In fact, I rarely leave the house on my own (I could leave a bit more if I got up and drove my wife to work, so being carless at home with the boys is mostly on me). I love my kids, but they can be tiring and it can be hard to try to do my work while they’re running around. So I rely too much on television to help keep us all entertained and to give me some sense of company to help combat the loneliness. Add to all of this the recent events, and even many not so recent about which we have forgotten, and I’m tired. I’m tired of this world. It is so broken; I am so broken. I’m tired.

J.R.R. Tolkien, in his excellent On Fairy-stories, writes:

“And if we leave aside for a moment “fantasy,” I do not think that the reader or the maker of fairy-stories need even be ashamed of the “escape” of archaism: of preferring not dragons but horses, castles, sailing-ships, bows and arrows; not only elves, but knights and kings and priests. For it is after all possible for a rational man, after reflection (quite unconnected with fairy-story or romance), to arrive at the condemnation, implicit at least in the mere silence of “escapist” literature, of progressive things like factories, or mashing-guns, and bombs that appear to be their most natural and inevitable, dare we say “inexorable,” products” (71).

When I started writing this letter I was feeling particularly melancholic. My children, my in-laws’ dog, everything was exasperating me. After laying down and praying for a bit (after I put my boys down for a nap), even after consciously sinning, as opposed to all the unconscious sinning I was doing earlier today, and repenting, I find myself in a different mood. I’m still tired, but those words by Tolkien were called to my mind. I recalled too C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair where Puddleglum says to the witch who has just been telling them that all their ideas about the sun, lions, Aslan, Narnia are naught but their imagination:

“‘One word, Ma’am,’ [Puddleglum] said, coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. ‘One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. 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 play-world which licks your real world hollow'” (190-191).

The weather has been overcast, as if, at least here in Hudson, the world is mourning all of this death with us. This overcast day has likely contributed to my mood. But, and at last there is a but for me this day, this isn’t the end. We can even say this isn’t the real world; it is a shadow world where evil makes us believe it is real and final. It isn’t. So I will take solace in the escape. I will fill my mind and heart with beautiful, good, true, simple things. I will continue to read fairy-stories where good triumphs, even when it seems not to. I will continue to listen to beautiful music, to enjoy the laughter and wonder of my children even as they drive me mad. I will escape this shadowland and seek that deeper reality that lies behind it. I will look for angels at the doors of the church. I will look to see the liturgical rhythm of the seasons, of the very spinning of our galaxy. I will remind myself of the cosmic mystery that is Jesus Christ. I will pray and dance and sing and feast and drink. I will take comfort in the good. I will not forget the evil. I will not cease to cry or mourn forever. But I will not let mourning be the last thing I do. I will rejoice amidst my sorrows, amidst the sorrows of the world, because I have rejected their cause. I will take heart. I will long for better days, for Arthur’s return, for Christ’s. But until then, I will not end my days in sadness, but in joy.

I am tired, my friends, but I am beginning to wake up.


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