I’m really smart.
No, really. I am. Seriously. Really smart.
Under the baseball cap covering my unwashed hair, under my sweatshirt smeared with peanut butter and dried Cheerios, I’m really smart. There’s a heart and a mind in there somewhere that loves – loooooves – taking a good story and deconstructing it and analyzing its pieces in order to make sense of our human experience.
I shared with you recently that I was reading the Harry Potter novels, how I was in awe of J.K. Rowling, how I attempted to read The Pilgrim’s Progress, but my Mommy Brain wouldn’t allow it, so I went back to reading Harry.
I finished all seven novels, and long before I turned the last page, I was wondering what in the world I was going to do next. Rowling’s stories had so captivated me – I thought I was going to go into withdrawal once I had closed the final book and was forced to leave the Wizarding World.
I think it was Beth Moore who noted that the reason we long for sequels – whether in books or movies – is that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and we don’t like endings. We want it to keep going because we are created to keep going.
So I did what any good geeky English major would do. I logged on to Amazon and searched for some books of literary analysis to dive further into Harry’s world. I knew in my geeky literary soul that there is much more to these stories than just children’s entertainment, and I was pretty sure there were some really smart people out there who had written about it.
I was right.
(‘Cause I’m really smart.)
I ordered two books: Harry Potter & Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds and The Deathly Hallows Lectures, and I waited with baited geeky breath for them to arrive on my doorstep, in the meantime reading Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult.
Somehow I did manage to get all the laundry done and feed my family between all this reading. Lord help me when Fall TV starts…
When the books finally came, I dove in to Imagination. I read about Enlightenment vs. post-modernism; the “primordial human desires” and the importance of fairy tales to explain and cope with them; the comparisons of George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, L’Engle, and Chesterson, and how Rowling has joined their ranks while simultaneously subverting the genre of Faerie, as defined by Tolkien; the nature of evil and how love and courage can overcome it.
OH!!! I am all a-flutter!!!
I was only one chapter in when I realized something very important: I needed a pencil. I needed to underline key information and make notes in the margins. I needed to awaken my mind, sit up and pay attention, because this was really good stuff.
Michael walked into the room last night while I was reading and underlining and he asked me why I was reading with a pencil. When I told him, he promptly declared that I Am Weird.
Yes, I am fully aware of that, thank you. But I am blissfully, passionately, joyfully weird. I love this. Love it.
The heart of an artist in me has for many years taken a backseat to car pools and peanut butter and dirty socks. But that heart still beats. It’s still there.
I think one reason that I have found so much joy in taking part in the deconstruction and analysis of the Harry Potter stories is that it has reminded me of the revelation of truth and human experience through art and of my part in the process of Creation. Tolkien and L’Engle both noted that as beings created in the image of God, who is the Creator, we are sub-creators or co-creators (respectively) with Him to reveal His truth. I fully believe that God reveals Himself and the truths about life and the human experience through art, whether stories, paintings, dance or music – or any other art form. Art awakens in us the fact that we are not defined only by flesh and blood, but by our eternal souls, emotions, and experiences. And here’s the really cool part: our sovereign, omnipotent God can use any art form – even if it’s not obviously or blatantly “Christian” – to speak truth.
A friend of mine, who is an amazingly gifted pianist, was struggling last week as she prepared to play for the funeral of a close family friend – a hero who was killed in Afghanistan. I reminded her that music is one of God’s languages that He uses to speak comfort and joy and peace and hope. He would use her fingers and the music she played to communicate His presence to those who are grieving.
In the same way, He can use great literature. Or a painting. Or an illustration.
Or perhaps, if He’s feeling really optimistic, a geeky, Cheerio-encrusted blogger living in suburbia.