Sunday, March 06, 2005

Fairy Tales and Marsh-wiggles

On Today's Menu:
Krab Salad Sandwich (hold the crab)

According to Bill Maher, I as a "religious person" have a serious neurological disorder. However, I don't think his statement is truly a question of neurosis, but the big question is: What's real, and what's the fairy tale? Noah and the Ark, or Jack and the Beanstalk? Krab salad won't ever be real crab, not matter if the fish is painted red, bleached white, and flavored. Crab is crab. Painted-and-flavored fish is still painted-and-flavored fish.

Self-delusion is very powerful stuff. We can persuade ourselves nearly anything. I once had a friend who persuaded herself that having a fling with a young man she wasn't married to was the answer to her heart problem, and that God above was surely "working in her life." The same kind of self-delusion caused a dozen men to carry out a plot and bring down two buildings in New York for the glory of their god. Frightening, isn't it, that our hearts can deceive us just like terrorists'? And there I can see Mr. Maher's point.

Yet experience is much more concrete than delusion, or fooling ourselves. Part of me can see how it would be easy to think religions provide a salve for people's empty spots, that they are just making something up to help make the whole sorry trip make sense. Along the road of life, it would be very easy to think we are trudging through on our own, enjoying mountaintops of glory, and relying on our human "spirit" to pull us through our struggles and triumph.

I am reminded of one of my favorite characters in literature, Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. He and his human friends are held captive by the Queen of Underland. She's trying to convince them through words and magic that world above doesn't exist, and is but a dream. Puddleglum, always the realist (to the children's dismay), counters her incantations with this:

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.

Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it.

We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world.

I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.

So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

Way to go, Puddleglum! He had experienced Narnia and the world above. No one could take that from him or charm him into thinking what he'd experienced was fake.

Mr. Maher and I have had religious upbringings. His lacked one thing, I think, from what he says: Experience. I did more than believe in God and His Words just because my parents hammered into my head (no, they didn't) for years and years. Is it any wonder children either a: leave their faith or b: become fanatics without experience (like our brainwashed terrorists) or c: discover their faith on their own. I sought for God and met Him on my own. That's where the truth comes alive. That's where faith comes in. I will not be charmed into thinking my experience is based on mere fairy tale.

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