January was bitter for me, and not because of the near blizzard conditions and sub-zero temps that assaulted me as I stepped out of the airport in Minnesota, but rather because of the purpose of my visit. I had flown 600 miles to help fix up my deceased mother’s house—and to say goodbye to it forever.
Nostalgia. It was written on every wall that I touched. Burned into the old linoleum in the kitchen. Ready to jump out at me from the closets. Sweetly wafting from every mound of her colorful, beautiful blouses.
One day while painting the bathroom, I opened the little window over the tub to let in some fresh air. And there, hanging from the roof was an entire row of perfect icicles! Just the kind I used to break off as a kid and suck on like they were sugar. The kind that I melted into fun shapes on the heat vent sticking out of the back wall of our garage. Those were happy and innocent times in my oft-troubled childhood.
I completed Merlin’s Nightmare after my mother’s death, and at one point I show a similar longing in Arthur as he visits his mother’s grave for the first time. (Note that the following excerpt has been edited to remove spoilers.)
Arthur approached the grave and knelt. Moisture began to cloud his vision, and soon the tears began to flow. All these years, lost to him. All these precious people, lost to him. Blood of his blood and bone of his bone. True family. And just below these rocks—so close, yet so forever far—lay his mother. A violent longing took hold of him to see her in the flesh, to be a child and sit beside her at a cozy hearth. Just share a single meal. Why can’t I do that? It’s so simple, God, why is this denied me? Why was I stripped from her arms? I don’t understand … I don’t understand!
And just like Arthur, I longed for the past. I longed for it so much that I reached my arm out of that skinny window and tried to grab an icicle. But it was too far. I strained, shifting my weight until my socks almost slipped on the edge of the tub. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t reach them.
And that’s how life is, isn’t it? We long for that special feeling we once had, but can never regain. We long to hold once more the family and friends who’ve gone before us, but they are gone and never to be held this side of heaven.
Another thing we often long for is forgiveness for the numerous failures in our past—to be cleansed, to start fresh—but instead many of us are haunted. Maybe the one we’ve wronged won’t forgive us, or maybe we can’t forgive ourselves. Surprisingly, three shows my family has seen recently had this as a theme—a desire to have the record of one’s sins wiped clean:
- Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.
- Mary Morstan in the last episode of Sherlock, season three.
- Lord Jim in the movie of the same name.
And this brings us to God, who is, in truth, the one who stands unmoved behind what we long for. Family. Love. True forgiveness. Joy.
This is what the writer says in Psalm 63:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
What are you thirsting for? Where do you hurt? What is missing from your life? Or is it just that the thrill of life is gone and the novelty has worn off? Sometimes all we want is to recapture that childhood magic.
C. S. Lewis addresses this in Mere Christianity:
What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.
This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live until it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.
But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially they will all get weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life. It is because so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new horizons ought to be appearing and new doors opening all round them.
It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy.
To apply this to the readers of SpeculativeFaith.com—what about us fantastic fiction fans? Is there something in our makeup that predisposes us to this kind of longing? The desire for literary thrills? If you will forgive my boldness, I’m going to reword the last sentence of the previous quote (keeping of course that cool British-ism of “better fun”):
It is much better fun to read new fiction than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first read Tolkien, Lewis, or whatever author that first inspired you.
Let’s face it … we all have our favorite authors from the past, the ones whose prose lit a fire in our souls that still smolders today. And we long to have it reignited, to capture again that childhood amazement. But that was the past, and the sooner we accept this and move on to new books and new authors, the sooner we will discover that a different interest and thrill lurks just around the corner.
So don’t get stuck on your favorite authors … new vistas await you! And where best to find them than in the Speculative Faith Library?
And while you’re here, make sure to vote for those new thrilling books to receive the Clive Staples Award!
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Robert Treskillard is a Celtic enthusiast who holds a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies from Bethel University, Minnesota. He has been crafting stories from his early youth, is a software developer, graphic artist, and sometime bladesmith.
He and his wife have three children and are still homeschooling their youngest. They live in the country outside St. Louis, Missouri.
His author career began when Robert’s son wanted to learn blacksmithing and sword-making. The two set out to learn the crafts and in the process were told by a relative that they were descended from a Cornish blacksmith. This lit the fire of Robert’s imagination, and so welding his Celtic research to his love of the legends of King Arthur and now is the author of Merlin’s Blade, Merlin’s Shadow, and the soon to be released Merlin’s Nightmare
You can learn more about Robert and his books at his web site, his <a href=”http://www.epictales.org/”>blog</a>, on <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/Treskillard”>Facebook</a>, and on <a href=”http://www.twitter.com/@treskillard”>Twitter</a>.