Myth and the Importance of Conversation

I think it has been pretty well established, both in life and in this space, that I am deep J.R.R. Tolkien nerd (the books, not the Peter Jackson movies–first three are enjoyable, but don’t get me started on the travesty of The Hobbit franchise) .  But I promise, I’m not sharing this article from The Art of Manliness in my capacity as Middle Earth Apologist, but because it offers A) one of the best descriptions I’ve read on the power of the Christian myth from someone other than Marcus Borg (myth as Mystic Truth, not necessarily as Fact), and B) because it makes a strong argument for the reclamation of the face-to-face conversation.  For each of these points, the author uses the fairly well-known story of C.S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity, by way of many deep conversations with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, as illustration.  

I came across this soon after reading Cathy Baskin’s blog post (and newsletter reflection, which you can read here) on the importance of open, honest, communication and how that can change hearts, and therefore the world.  Synchronicity, indeed.  

The article is a little long, so I’ll give you the short version, but if you do have time, consider reading the whole thing (link below).

First, on the power of Myth:

Yet, Tolkien challenges his friend, the Christian story of atonement and resurrection should still be approached just as Lewis had the Norse tales of gods like Baldr — allowing the story to deeply and mysteriously move him. Like all myths, the true myth of Christ was not to be grasped mechanistically, as a literal description of things that had happened, but imaginatively, for its meaning. The Christian myth was true not in the sense of revealing the actual nature of God, and how exactly mankind had been redeemed, which finite minds could not possibly comprehend; it was true in the sense that the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection composed the best vehicle — the best narrative — by which the human mind could be illuminated and catch a glimpse of the deeper structure underlying the eternities.

And now on the need for real conversation (and yes, I’m aware of the irony of launching an appeal for face-to-face conversation out into the digital abyss, but we’re looking for balance here, not for one necessarily to triumph over the other):

Face-to-face conversations can be entertaining, edifying, and all-around soul satisfying. They can be opportunities for both learning and mentorship. They can help you discover things about others, and about yourself, that would have otherwise remained hidden. They can spark transformative realizations, even revelations; they can bring you back to yourself. Lewis evocatively sums up the joys of conversation:

“Those are the golden sessions … when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze and our drinks at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give.”

Magical, even life-changing things can happen when you choose to enter into conversation — when you choose spontaneity over editing and efficiency. But it is paradoxically a spontaneity that one must intentionally seek and ready oneself for.

read the full article here

Why do these two men, in most ways far more conservative (though in the best possible sense) than I, continue to fascinate me?  I’d love to have a conversation about it.

– Ben

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