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Posts Tagged ‘Symbolism’

…continued from “A Friend in the Grass”

And talk, they did.  They spoke of the land, called Phóghrian which means “kissed by the sun.”  They talked of King Ghrian, a royal descendant of the very Creator and namesake of their world.  He was kind, just, and beloved by all his subjects whom he treated more as children and friends than subordinates.  It was a very old world, Alita said.  A world much older than that which Kathryn was from and one that would be there long after hers expired.  Kathryn was so happy to be wandering the enchanted land that she barely noticed the toll the walk was taking on her.  Perhaps there, even the ground was kind-hearted and soft as to provide gentle passage to all travelers.

When they reached the forest edge, Alita took in a deep breath conveying sheer glee to Kathryn.  Before she could ask, Alita turned to say, “this is one of my most favorite places in all of Phóghrian.  I’m so excited to share it with you!”  Kathryn smiled as her heart filled with warmth.  Something in Alita’s tone assured her that she was sincerely welcomed and enjoyed as a traveling companion.  It seemed so odd given that they’d known each other less than 24 hours, but she felt secure in this new friendship.  “I’m happy too,” she genuinely replied.

They were barely twenty yards into the wood when it became obvious why it was called the Forest of Lights.  The trees were tall, thick, and deeply green.  They created miles and miles of canopied paradise, offering shade to all the creatures within it.  Despite the thick covering, the emerald-colored leaves were positioned in such a way that millions of tiny sunrays streamed through to kiss the ground below.  In being so far above her, the forest ceiling mimicked the gleam of stars in the midnight sky though formed by sun and trees.  It was breathtaking.

As they traveled, Alita shared some of her story.  She’d come from a long line of warriors.  Her family lived on the other side of the large Kingdom, but she was called to serve in the King’s palace.  She missed her parents and siblings terribly, but reunited with them in the very meeting place where she’d met Kathryn.  She loved being near the King.  She praised his character and kindness with honest exuberance.  The closer she was to him, she explained, the more complete she felt.

“Alita,” Kathryn asked, “do you hear that?”  Kathryn hated to interrupt such lovely stories, but she couldn’t contain her curiosity any longer.  Ever since they’d entered the forest, she’d heard whisperings all around.  However, every time she looked, she saw no one.  At this point, she knew to expect mystery and magic, but she couldn’t stand not knowing what she was hearing.

“Oh! You hear the trees, don’t you? My goodness, I’d gotten so caught up—I do that a lot—that I completely forgot to tell you. The trees are alive as you and I, and they’re chattering is because of you.”
“They can tell I’m not from here, huh?”
“Well, yes, that’s true,” she replied with a chuckle, “but that’s not why they’re talking. They’re excited. They’ve been excited to meet you ever since they heard you’d arrived.”
“I don’t believe that.” She lost control of her cynicism for the moment.
“Believe it, my friend, because it’s true. Come, let’s ask them.”
“No, we don’t have to—” she protested, but it was too late. Alita was determinedly marching towards a particularly tall redwood-like tree near the rough path.
“Excuse me, could we ask you something please?” Alita shouted towards the top.
“Absolutely!” replied a kindly, masculine voice.

Within seconds, the base of the tree began to shift with a mighty cracking sound, not unlike that of lightning striking a branch overhead.  She stared with gaping eyes as the figure of a seven-foot man emerged from the trunk, leaving his cut-out shape behind as he adjusted his neck and arms before them.  His skin was warm brown and oddly soft-looking, despite being composed of aged bark.  His long sage-toned hair of moss joined his long beard, alluding to great wisdom.  Vines covered his body like a tunic with decorative leaves and coils scattered about.  Stiffened by the unbelievable sight and a good measure of fear, Kathryn stood as a statue as he opened his mouth (how peculiar that he had a mouth!) to address them.  “What can I help you with?” he asked.

“Well,” replied Alita with unshakeable confidence, “Kathryn was wondering what exactly you have been talking about.”
“Kathryn? That’s a nice name,” he acknowledged as he crouched to look the newcomer in the eye. “Well, Kathryn, we’re talking about you. We’d heard that the King was calling for someone from your world. Since then, we’ve been looking forward to seeing the one whom he would call so specifically. It’s quite an honor, you know.”
“I imagine,” she stammered respectfully, finally drumming up the courage to speak.
“We’re all so glad you’ve come. Clearly, the King has something very special in store for you. We can’t wait to find out what it is.”
“We were also saying how lovely you are,” chimed in a feminine voice nearby, as a tall lady with long hair in a mossy gown emerged.
“Oh, um, thank you?” Kathryn replied, full of disbelief.
“It’s true! You’re like a tiny, golden-haired flower,” she reassured with a sincere, beaming smile as the fellow near them nodded in agreement.
Kathryn blushed as she thanked them with more confidence.
“You see! I told you!” Alita proudly stated, “You’re a lot more special than you realize.”
Kathryn was about to reply with defensive sarcasm when Alita intercepted to say, “Well, we have to be going.  We’ve still got another three hours to go, at the least.”

The tree people wished them well as they pressed on through the forest, grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Kathryn’s journey to the King.  With each step onward, she grew quieter as she wondered what the King could possibly want from her.  A throbbing nervousness settled in her heart as a result.  Like an internal anvil, this feeling plummeted to her stomach as they reached the end of the great forest and they stopped to take in the view of the grand Golden Mountains, drenched in evening sunlight.

“In about an hour, you’re going to meet him,” spoke her wildcat companion with delight. “Are you ready?”
Kathryn heaved a weighty sigh and replied with extreme honesty, “not even a little.”
Alita heartily laughed at her friend’s response as they proceeded into the narrow valley before them.

to be continued…

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continued from The Song in the Meadow

“OH! You’re here! We so hoped you’d make it in time!” the elated creature exclaimed.
The surprise of being directly addressed knocked her on her rear as she stammered a reply, “Oh…I, I’m sorry. Wait—in time for what? You knew I was coming?”
“Everyone knows that,” it confirmed.
“Oh, you’ll just love it,” another beamed as many started to acknowledge her excitedly. “Tonight is the night when we move on. “
“All of you?” she implored as she gazed at the vast population before her.
“Every last one of us,” chimed a surprising baritone.
“Where are you going?”
“Up there!” said a buzzing soprano voice.
Kathryn looked up reflexively, but saw nothing but the many diamond-like stars nestled in their deep blue backdrop.
“Up there? There’s nothing up there but the sky and stars.”
“Exactly!” They were all aflutter at this point.
Confused by what she was hearing and seeing, she asked, “would you mind, I mean…could I ask…what are you?”
“Why, we’re Asteruffs. We’re star seeds,” replied the original greeter.
“You mean to tell me that you’re all going to become stars tonight? Does that mean all of the stars above us were once Asteruffs?”
“Oh yes. It’s been that way since this world was created.”

She was filled with skepticism—something she had far too much of—but wanted to believe the little creatures. After all, why would they lie? It’s just that, in her world, stars were huge burning masses of gas, not tiny funny-looking seedlings. As her feelings threatened to ruin the beauty of the otherwise magical moment, a strong and wise voice resounded from behind her to address her doubt.

“I know, Kathryn. These unassuming Asteruffs look far more like the weeds of your world than wondrous pieces of the galaxies, but its different here. The Creator loves humble beginnings that lead to glorious endings. I know it’s hard to be believe, but in just a few minutes, you will bear witness to one such event.”

She was about to turn around to see the source of the voice (it seemed she might have to get used to mysterious voices,) when curiously on-cue, the wind roared from the West and headed towards the Asteruffs. Immediately, they were all set alight in response and Kathryn stood and was mesmerized by the field of sparkling luminaries before her. Swiftly, the wind arrived and uprooted the brightly-lit seedlings and whisked them into a whirlwind.

She laughed, lifted her arms, and began to twirl as the thousands of twinkling creatures danced around her and sang even more joyously than before. Time seemed to slow as she stood in the field, dancing with the Asteruffs as they made their ascent. She lingered in that moment as long as possible, overjoyed to be a part of their most magical moment, but all too soon she was waving “good-bye” as they flew higher and further away. By the next night, they’d be at home with the rest of the stars in that enchanted land. She sighed wistfully as she wished she could be as fortunate as them.

“Breathtaking, wasn’t it?” observed the voice from behind again.

Her throat thickened as she was reminded of the mysterious presence behind her. There was something intimidating about the voice, as if it came from a mighty speaker. Though distinctly feminine, it somehow didn’t seem human. She braced herself and turned slowly. Her jaw dropped and her eyes met the deep yellow eyes of someone she never expected. There, as sure as she stood, sat a majestic, amber tigress staring back, waiting for a response. She could only utter a squeak as the shock of such a formidable presence caused her to faint and fall into the lush grass below.

To be continued…

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A few weeks ago, my roommate and I were discussing books, ambitions, and other lovely topics.  On the topic of writing and written works as a whole, I once again mentioned my love for fiction. I shared my declaration of devotion to the genre with a speech that finds a constant home on my lips.  Several days later, while talking with another friend, the subject of the monomyth and its ever-increasing popularity in modern fiction came under discussion.  This perpetuated my already-constant mulling over why so many of us connect with certain stories.

What is a monomyth, you ask?  Is it the creature that lives in the dryer and feasts on singular socks with the malicious purpose of creating odd ones?  Or isn’t that a town in New Jersey?  Nope.   It’s actually a literary concept, also known as the “Hero’s Journey.”  This concept of story-telling was described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949.  The term monomyth was apparently coined from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  History lesson concluded.

More practically, the Hero’s Journey is the story of someone seemingly ordinary being called to fulfill an extraordinary task.  It involves a calling to adventure, encounters with the supernatural, a road of trials, atonement, supportive journeyers, and ultimately a return from a successful quest which empowers the hero to live a life transformed.  There are more details to the steps, of course, but I fear it would overtake this post.  However, if you’re geeky like me, and wish to learn more, you can check out these sites:  http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00212/monomyth.html, http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/hero_journey/hero_journey.htm.

Anyway, the Hero’s Journey is displayed in countless books, movies, and other artistic expressions that we hold dear.  The Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Harry Potter, Spiderman, King Arthur, Odyssey, Star Wars, and Avatar are all examples of this type of story.   The list goes on for days.  I realize that the list I’ve described is composed of fantasy/science fiction, but the Hero’s Journey appears in other genres outside of these, albeit less directly.  In any case, this story structure is apparent in a great deal of popular fiction.  My point?  I think there’s a larger reason why this type of story appeals to people, a reason beyond the obvious.  I think it’s actually a parallel to the reality of life.

Let me lay down a little bit of premise about human nature.  Naturally, we humans label, compartmentalize, minimize, and categorize.  We put things in containers and formulas to make them more comprehensible and manageable.  We do it with everything, including our views and experiences of God.  We read his word with monotonous or matter-of-fact tones.  We predict how he will answer our prayers.  We focus on the attributes we can understand with human terminology the most.  We put the supernatural God in a human-shaped box to make him easier for our earthbound psyches to digest.  I do it all the time.

The real truth, which He’s been revealing to me more and more over the past several years, is that He is wild, magical, mysterious, humanly unpredictable, larger than time itself, infinite, grand, etc.  I find a great deal of symbolism in fictional works that forces my imagination to go outside it’s human parameters to imagine a world where trees send messages, the weak are used to slay the monsters, and love, good and truth know no bounds.  I’m forced to confront the truth that God has the power to create such things and even more beyond my puny perception’s reach.  I think, deep down, people want to believe that such a world and such a God exist.  Now, I’m not saying that parallel realms exist in which enchanted purple dragons cut through the night sky and 400-year-old willow trees have tea and walk about freely.  I have no proof that they don’t, but even my head isn’t quite that far into the clouds.  But I digress.

People are created with the intrinsic knowledge—however deeply buried—that they’re meant for more than that which is visible and tangible.  We all need to find this.  Typical human behavior and tendencies provide proof to the fact that everyone is looking for better and higher experiences all the time.  Some seek it in drug-induced states.  Some in human love and sex.  Some in TV or material possessions (the less socially damned but equally as dangerous mediums.)  They’re all reaches, conscious or unconscious, towards that “something more.”  We all want to be and experience more and were divinely created to feel this insatiable desire which points to God Himself.

Coming back to the Hero’s Journey, I believe it is appealing because it involves all of the things that life is actually supposed to involve.  Each Christian testimony (the story of how a person came to know Christ) is a version of the Hero’s Journey.  He calls and pursues us all our lives.  He intervenes supernaturally.  We join with others on this journey, experience challenges/temptations, and eventually experience death, rebirth, and transformation.  We are then called to live this transformed life for the benefit of the entire world (i.e. The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.)

To summarize, we are natural creatures created for experiencing the Supernatural and this literary structure outlines it and speaks to that created mindset.  That’s why people are drawn to it.  The twist, however, in actual reality is that we’re not the heroes at all and there is little personal glory to be found (which I find incredibly freeing.)  God is the protagonist and the supernatural influence.  He is also the author of each of our stories (Hebrews 12:2 and Acts 3:15,) and an incredible one at that.  He writes them as sagas that are constantly building towards the climax.  Yes, undeniably, they are dynamic tales filled with ups and downs, triumphs and trials, joy and pain.  Thus is the Hero’s Journey.  It is, however, never dull and filled with unlimited potential to find joy in abundance.  Even more beautifully, the ultimate ending to these adventures we live, though unseen by the living, is an eternity of perfect bliss with He who holds the quill. (Revelation 21:1-5)

How truly wonderful indeed.

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