Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Enter the Religious Imagination

From Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
There must be something about engaging the arts that makes me want to blog. Last fall I took an arts-based research class at EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and blogged at various points along that journey, including the submission of my final project as a number of posts. This fall I'm taking a class called "The Religious Imagination in Contemporary Culture," taught by EMU visual-communication arts professor, Jerry Holsopple (who periodically blogs at Into the Window and writes on things media-related for Third Way Cafe). We just finished our second class session today and I'm already loving the class. It was a good sign when he started off last week with clips from U2 concerts and this week talking extensively about The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One item of class business that Jerry is asking for is the submission of what he calls "Golden Nuggets" from our assigned readings. Rather than turning these in on paper or even over e-mail, I thought it might be fun to post them here throughout the semester, along with a few other blog-friendly ideas I have for assigned class work. Read on after the break for the rest of the inaugural post in this class-inspired series...

So here they are, five golden nuggets/pearls of wisdom, from the book, The Christian Imagination : The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing, edited by Leland Ryken and containing essays from many Christian literary figures, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Flannery O'Connor. The section from which I'm excerpting quotes is entitled, "Myth and Fantasy":
  1. "All the elements of the fairy tale are waiting within us..." --Madeleine L'Engle (p. 320)
  2. "He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted." --C.S. Lewis (p. 324)
  3. "In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, it is true that in the destruction of the demonic ring a great evil is destroyed, but the universal triumph of good is still only a hobbits, dream, and the golden age of elves and dwarfs is fated to be followed by the tragic age of men." --Frederick Buechner (p. 326)
  4. "And actually fairy-stories deal largely, or (the better ones) mainly, with simple things...made all the more luminous by their setting... It was in fairy-stories that I first divined the potency of the words, and the wonder of the things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine." --J.R.R. Tolkien (p. 326)
  5. "...that [the Gospel] not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still. To preach the Gospel in its original power and mystery is to claim in whatever way the preacher finds it possible to claim it that once upon a time is the time, now, and here is the dark wood that the light gleams at the heart of like a jewel, and the ones who are to live happily ever after are...all who labor and are heavy laden, the poor naked wretches wheresoever they be." --Frederik Buechner (p. 331, emphasis added)
There was much to chew on today in our conversation about Tolkien's LOTR books and their Peter Jackson-led film adaptations, both of which I love dearly. Hmm...I'd love to dig into that more here, but my daughter is now done with her homework and ready to play some ping-pong, so that's important stuff to attend to.

See also my review of Tolkien's Children of Hurin, published posthumously and completed by his son, Christopher.

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