Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

I used to define myself as a Christian. I don’t anymore.

The shoe didn’t fit, so I stopped wearing it. Simple, really. And yet not.

Because when pressed to define my faith,  I have trouble coming up with an accurate term. A comfortable box to shove myself into. A category that encompasses all the whys and wherefores.

So I was intrigued by a definition I stumbled across recently in the back of a fantasy novel. (Sidenote: Many sci-fi/fantasy novels have really thoughtful and insightful takes on religion. I’ve read books by Jacqueline Carey and Robin McKinley, specifically, that caused me to think about my own experiences with God/churches/etc.  in whole new ways. )

This particular book was The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin. In the “Extras” section at the end of the book, Jemisin answers a question about exploring religion in her writing with this statement:

“Well, I consider myself an agnostic–not in the sense of doubting the existence of God, but in the sense of doubting the capability of any human religion to encompass the divine. More specifically I think religion alone is not enough to encompass the divine. Religion is a handy guide to living, assuming you’re still living in the society that existed at the time of the religion’s founding. It’s useful for unifying and motivating a population. But to understand ourselves and the universe, we need to explore other schools of thought–the complexity of the human consciousness, the limits of science, and more. I believe we will eventually need to interact with other intelligent entities, and exchange ideas. And we need to be wary of the ways in which letting others do this thinking and learning for us can come back to bite us on the ass.”

There is much about Jemisin’s answer that resonates with me. But in being a student of the divine, I have a long way to go. Many questions to ask and schools of thought to explore. But the older I get, the more strongly I believe that life isn’t about finding security in rote answers. Real living isn’t reciting catechism or memorizing prayers someone else wrote.

Life is seeking. Reaching. Asking. Taking a journey in search of the divine that doesn’t quite look like anybody else’s personal quest.

Some can embark on this journey from within the confines–the body–of a church. That’s a fine and beautiful thing.

I couldn’t do it. Can’t. Won’t.

So I left, and here I wander. But, to borrow from that Tolkien quote you see so often on the bumpers of cars, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

And neither am I.

-Lo, who means no disrespect to any whose shoe still fits.

 

 

Required Reading

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

mood: calm | drinking: agua

mckinley_small

Books have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up without a TV, and my mom would take my sister and I to the Dixon Public Library once a week. We’d fill an apple box with books, take them home, and by the time we returned the next week, we had read all the books (some of them twice).

I had an early affinity for fantasy. I devoured fairy tales (the Grimm versions, not Disney), Greek myths, Indian folk tales starring Ganesh and Kali, Lewis’ Narnia, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Baum’s Land of Oz, George MacDonald’s stories of the Princess and Curdie and the goblins who lived just beneath a layer of earth, like moles.

With all these visions of mayhem and magic and brave, bold girls like Lucy Pevensie, I have no idea how I missed out on Robin McKinley. But I did.

I only discovered her by accident a few months ago, thanks to a vampire tale (her only book featuring vampires) called Sunshine.

I was intrigued by her writing style, her fully-realized alter-world, and her strong, stubborn female heroine. So I started poking around the web for a sequel or prequel to Sunshine, which doesn’t exist. I found instead the rest of McKinley’s ouevre, most notably The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword.

I read Hero while still pregnant, and finished Sword while in the hospital after delivering Lucette. And I decided then and there that McKinley’s books would have a prominent place on Lucette’s already packed bookshelf. They will be required reading.

Enough of these namby pamby Disney damsels in distress, whose only hope is a handsome, vapid prince to come along and kiss them, so they can live out their lives in pampered, dull luxury behind the walls of glistening stone turrets.

If Lucette wants to be a princess, I want her to model herself after Aerin in The Hero and the Crown, who gentles a wounded war horse, goes off dragon hunting, and saves her entire country from doom. I want her to favor Rosie in Spindle’s End, who hates the curly golden ringlets bestowed on her by fairy godmothers…

“When she was old enough to hold minimal conversations, the itsy-bitsy-cutesy-coo sort of grown-ups would pull the soft ringlets gently and tell her what a pretty little girl she was. She would stare at this sort of grown-up and say, ‘I am not pretty. I am intelligent. And brave.’ ”

So far this month, I’ve worked my way through four more of McKinley’s books, and I have the last few that I haven’t yet read on order. I’m going to be dreadfully sad when I read the last page of the last novel, though.

McKinley feels like a once-in-a-lifetime discovery, and I pity the poor author whose book is the first to follow my McKinley binge. They will suffer horribly by comparison.

-Lo, who will always find time to read, newborn infant or no.