I used to think that I was a terrible writer. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but I found prose intimidating. About four years ago, my wife began to encourage my creative writing. It started slowly, just a blog every once in a while, but I began to enjoy the writing process.
In late 2010, I compiled several short works into a booklet on Christianity in America. I enjoyed writing about religion, but frequently told myself and others that I would never attempt fiction. Not because I dislike fiction, but because I love it and I felt I did not have the creativity to pull together a worthwhile contribution to the world of fictional tales.
I love being taken on adventures into fantasy worlds. For that reason, books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Time Quintet (Madeline L’Engle), Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series are among my favorite fictional works. Also, the charming and imaginative movies of Hayao Miyazaki are quite inspirational to me.
But I kept swearing I would not write fiction…until one day the idea for a story hit me in January 2011. Two years later, I am still at work on this fantasy-adventure novel.
Christianity in color
So, what does any of that have to do with Orthodoxy? I can’t help but answer: everything!
When stepping into an Orthodox parish, beauty surrounds me. On every wall are colorful icons depicting heroes of the faith as well as deeply symbolic scenes from scripture. There is meaning in everything we do – from the position of one’s fingers on their hands to the way they stand during a service. The icons are not meant to be “photo real” images of our Savior and the saints, but rather metaphorical images that mix the spiritual and physical realms into one image (since that is the complexity of our human nature).
I call Orthodoxy: “Christianity in Color.” But it doesn’t stop in the parish. I have an “icon corner” in my home. The sweet smelling candles remind me that my prayers are a beautiful fragrance to God, the depictions of Jesus and a few saints covering the wall tell me I am never alone when I pray or at any other time of the day, the crucifix that I wear whispers that Jesus is always near to my heart…even when I feel depressed or have sinned.
Unfortunately, due to the influence of the Puritans and other groups, Western Christians tend to eye anything that is symbolic as superstitious or meaningless. We have stripped much of the color, beauty, imagination, and depth from our worship services and daily lives.
“Further up and further in”
But Orthodoxy is inviting me into the rich depth of the artistry of Christ. As I have entered into the realm of imagination with the story I am writing that takes place in a fantasy land, I find that beauty and creativity through symbolism are becoming more important and more real to me.
I am leaving the dryness of post-Reformation mindsets and entering a world enriched with imagery, color, and symbolism. The movements and actions of my daily life are becoming sacraments – which is a fancy word for “an encounter with God.” After all, it was bread and wine which Jesus offered to the disciples saying, “This is my body and my blood.” These would have been two of the most common elements to the ancient Jew’s daily life. Not only was Jesus establishing a sacrament, but he was showing that our whole lives are to be filled with sacraments.
I realize this may not appeal to everyone. But for those who would like to touch their inner child’s fascination with mystery, symbolism, and depth, I would invite you to embark on an adventure and exploration into the ancient Eastern Orthodox Church.
4 thoughts on “Imagination and Mystery”
This was simply beautiful. The images you selected are enchanting and captivating. Thank you for sharing your heart with us along your journey! This post said it best! (and hurrah for Miyazaki sama!!) Best wishes with your writing; I know that you are creating something beautiful.
Thank you for your love and encouragement 🙂
I found your blog through a Google search for “Orthodox Christmas Canon.” Thank you. In response to this particular post, if you’re looking for more of the rich symbolism found in Tolkien, Lewis, and L’Engle, I would highly encourage you to read G.K. Chesterton, Jorge Luis Borges, and (especially) Gene Wolfe. (Begin with his New Sun quartet.) They all happen to be Catholics (don’t know of any Orthodox writers well-known for their fantasy), but the imagery and the symbolism I think you would find especially rich.
Incidentally, I just viewed Miyazaki’s “From Up on Poppy Hill” yesterday evening. While not as effective as some of his more fantastical works, it was as lovely as you would expect. I think what makes his works so appealing to me is the way that he seamlessly integrates the realism and the fantasy so you’re left with a lingering suspicion that it is the “real world” where the true magic is found.
Hi Steve, thanks for the info on the authors. I’ve read some Chesterton, but not any of the other two. It sounds like you and I have many similar interests in books and movies. I read Dostoevsky’s the Brothers Karamazov recently, and while it certainly isn’t fantasy, it was quite the beautiful literary work.
I look forward to seeing Miyazaki’s latest movie, and I think you totally hit the nail on the head with your observation you made about his movies.