My blog title would actually make more sense if it were Res Studii et Ludi. That somehow has escaped my notice for almost two years. There goes my vaunted skill with Latin. I suppose by this point tradition allows for the grammatical awkwardness to remain in place.
During his homily today, Father [X] made a case for Christian humanism on the basis of the Incarnation. That is, since God’s revelation of Himself to us takes the form of a man, human ways of understanding and engaging with the world have been elevated into ways in which we can come to know God, rather than being rivals to a religious understanding of the world.
Tolkien made a somewhat similar point with regard to stories:
I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels – peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfilment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.
Because this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men – and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.
But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the ‘happy ending’. The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.
“On Fairy-Stories”. The Monsters and the Critics. London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2006. pgs. 155-7.
I like this. There’s a peculiar pathos in being an atheist who feels the power of stories, myths and fairy tales, since they do not come true. Of course, the experience of the absence of God, of the absense of meaning and of disillusionment is itself a sort of tragic story – one which is even reduplicated in revelation (remember Ecclesiastes). So in a sense even that story fits in to the big picture.
But it’s also more comfortable if stories don’t come true. To actually have to be Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins would be interesting but also somewhat frightening, because so much would be riding on our actions. But, as long as Christ is risen, I must necessarily find within myself a battle of good and evil, and where the coin will finally land remains in suspense. And the stakes couldn’t be higher, for if a kingdom falls, then something temporal and finite is destroyed. But if I am damned, then I have killed something infinite and eternal.