February 14, 2012

Logos

I want much more than this provincial life!
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
I want it more than I can tell...

- beauty and the beast


I am not an adventurous individual. I get nervous about car rides and the idea of being on an airplane makes me shudder. Snowboarding? Tubing? Riding a bike down a really steep hill? They all make me want to slink away to my comfy chair in the living room and settle down with a book. Real-world adventure and I don't get along.

Adventure in the realm of ink and paper, however, is quite a different matter. That I couldn't do without. Whether it be an adventure of the past, as in a biography, or one like Treasure Island, where the action is nearly fantastical, there is something thrilling about it. Through the story we see a wholly separate world; through the characters we are allowed to live the adventure. In a way, it takes us out of ourselves.

I suppose this is a large part of the charm of reading. There is only one Emily Dickinson poem that I have read and enjoyed (although I will admit to not being well-versed in her works), and it is probably also her most famous.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Perhaps this is a little embellished, as poetry usually is. Yet it hints at the beauty and power of the written word, its seemingly unlimited capabilities. There are few things that so set Man and his soul apart from the animal realm as his rationality and capacity of both thinking and communicating; last month I wrote a short post on the Imago Dei, and this aspect of Man vividly portrays that God's image in him has not been lost. Jesus Christ is called the Logos, the Word, the thought of the Father communicated, and as humans we are privileged to bear that image through language.

It is impossible to explain the impact of words, yet it is equally impossible to deny that they do indeed have an impact. We joke about the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword and envision a battle between a writer and a soldier, but cliche though the saying may be, it remains true: we would no longer know of the great warriors of history had some writer not chronicled their lives. Words have the ability to transport the reader "lands away," to conjure up another world in his mind, to communicate in a manner that is almost magical. Like so many elements of the human psyche, this is something that, while tangible, is also indefinable.

And yet, also like so many other parts of the human mind, this comes with its own dangers. It is easy to fall into escapism - I know I often do. Is it a godly way of living to shut oneself up in the realm of the written word and never come out? I have heard people declare that they live in the wrong era. These are usually readers, individuals who see another period in the (oft-glorified) mirror of books and wish they had been born in that time. It just seems so much better than the humdrum life we have every day. But not only is this an idealized way of looking at history, it also constitutes a slap in the face of Providence. God knows what He is about; He put us in this day and age for a reason. We must not lose sight of that, or we run the risk of getting so caught up in sighing over days gone by that we forget to live as salt and light here and now.

Are books dangerous, then? Should we all burn our adventure stories? Well, to answer the first question, with our sinful nature it is possible to take anything to excess; and to answer the second, if you intend to get rid of them you should send them to me. Books are wonderfully beautiful and helpful things. So much can be gleaned from them. We cannot live in that realm alone, but I do think we should strive to unite it with the world of our daily lives.

7 comments:

  1. This post resonates with me completely. It has been my habit to spin grand and lofty dreams and adventures in my head about things I could do with myself and the direction I want to take my life in and then too often I sit back down upon my comfy chair and settle instead for slipping back into a world safe and magical and far from any reality that I believe God is directing me to.

    Words are divine. We were created from words straight from the Father's mouth which is brilliant. And I love how they are so chock full of power and potential and emotion and creation.

    But the written word in form of novels (which I adore) have their place, like you so astutely wrote. Everything in moderation. We must not settle for a life behind a perpetual cover, when God has deemed us live in the here and now and create beauty and magic and life through our very lives.

    Love your writing style, girly!

    Jeanine :)))

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  2. I find it amusing that I was just singing "Beauty and the Beast" since Tim brought roses home for me, and you referenced another song from that film...

    I'm reading Mere Christianity, as you probably know, and I just finished the chapter on the "cardinal" virtues, among which are prudence and temperance. I think both apply here. I think they all apply here, but these two seemed to jump out at me from your post. And to reference one of my own pieces of literature, and to follow up Jeanine's comment, among a fictional people I am writing, a person's soul is referred to as his "word." His thoughts, his speech, his actions, any expression of his soul, are also referred to as his "word." I haven't explored this idea very far, but so far as I have, I have found it a very revealing thought.

    You know us, Abigail. We should be very stupid people if it were not for the portals of books which we step through. All time and the minds of God and Man are for us to explore.

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  3. Love the Poem!

    I really don't care to skydive, bungee jump, or kyacking, but I haves tubes (nearly died) and ridden on a plane (thought I was going to fall out when the pilot made us go sideways!).

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  4. I'm definitely more of the adventurous type. I'm not sure if I would bungee jump, but I've been skiing, mountain climbing, and I'm always eager to try new things just for the sake of trying them. At the same time, I love books dearly and I agree that books take you away into adventures and experiences that nothing else ever could. I'm not sure I prefer one over the other--real life thrill experiences, or the thrill of a story well told. Both are so beautiful in their own way.

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  5. This is a beautiful post, Abigail, and I couldn't agree more with you about the issues you raised. Words are really amazing, I am always surprised at how words can be so timeless and poignant, it can draw you into times past, into different places and teach you so much about life as well! As you brought it out here, the most wonderful thing is to know that in the beginning was THE Word, and the WORD was God!

    Hmm, me too... I'd rather huddle up with a book that will lead me on many an adventure then bungee jump or scupper dive or do something crazy like that. But you're right there, that it is so important not to live through reading and soaking yourself so much into novels in a world of escapism of reality and life as it is. Actually I've found that saying 'I often think I was born in the wrong era" to be rather annoying, because it sounds like we're blaming God for His Providence and plan for our lives, in placing us in this time for a special purpose. And too, it can be glorifying a certain historical era wrongly. People of by gone days sure had so many uninteresting and terrible things in their time as well! It is so amazing to know that the Lord is the great Author of our life, and that is such an encouraging thought! At the same time, reading in moderation is so good, and filled with so many treasure troves. Books (fictional, biographical, historical, devotional) are so, so wonderful!! I couldn't stop reading them even if I wanted too =D.

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  6. Jeanine - You're right: the work of God is brilliant. That may seem a trite way of putting it; but really, when one considers the amazing intricacy of His revealed plan of redemption and self-glorification, it is so markedly beyond anything we could invent that we can hardly describe it any other way.

    Jenny - I watched part of "Beauty and the Beast" the other evening and got this song stuck in my head, which is what inspired the post. (That and Treasure Island.) I love the idea of a man's "word." Reminds me of the old use of "conversation." Was it meant to? Genius, either way.

    Ashley - It is a pretty poem, isn't it? I have a bookmark that has just the first part on it.

    Dani - Eeee...! Mountain-climbing! I will forever link that with whichever McGee & Me movie it was where the father nearly falls off the cliff. (And now every time you go mountain-climbing, you'll think of that too.) My issue may be that I have an overactive and generally pessimistic imagination.

    Joy - Personally, much as I enjoy reading about history, there is not one single era I'd like to go back and live in. We have our trials nowadays, but our society is amazingly comfortable when compared with what it was a hundred or two hundred years ago.

    Thanks for commenting!

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  7. Abigail,

    As always, your post was refreshing. I like the quote from B&B, and Emily Dickinson, your thoughts about balance in life, and caveat not to try to live in the 'good old days' (they weren't), but to appreciate where and when the Providence of God has placed us.

    Books are part of life, a real true part, and so we shouldn't fault ourselves for living in them. Only if this is an obsession. You are a social person or you wouldn't be blogging the way you do. Books are something real that we can share. We are sharing first in another's mind, so to speak, and then afterward, sharing what we liked about the books with others. It is solitary but also social. And so, real life.

    Okay, We will remember to send unwanted books to you! No burning, unless the book is diabolical.

    Shameless plug: If anyone is interested in reading another (another?!) version of Beauty and the Beast, visit my writer's journal. I did a serial version and got in over my head, but this was fun, and I'm so glad I did.

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meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
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Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
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Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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