Mystery and wonder are two things that brings me back again and against to fantasy. I’m not talking crime novel type mystery but that sense of amazing and seeing without fully comprehending that happens when you stand at the top of a high mountain or stare up into the mist of a great falls.
Growing up takes a lot of mystery out of life. You figure out that food doesn’t just show up in the fridge. You learn about money, who has it and who doesn’t, and that not everyone is friendly. A lot of thing turns into moveable block pieces inside your circle of influence. You know and understand them and there’s no mystery to it. It’s ho-hum-humdrum.
But now and again you experience something that even once you understand it, that sense of mystery remains. These things keep the spice of our lives fresh.
Love is the first mystery that comes to my mind. Nothing else has caused me as much pain as loving someone. Walking away from fundamental religion and loosing my first foundation for morality was easier. It’s a mystery. We can explain it, document it, draw huge maps of relationship networks, even watch the chemical reactions inside someone’s brain when they receive a hug but the mystery for me remains. Nothing to me seems as dangerous as loving someone except for never loving at all. It’s the essential danger and the ever present mystery.
Eight years I’ve been with my husband and still I’m discovering him and every the growing bonds between us. I stand in amazement of what can happen between people when they take the risk. Both the destruction and the beauty that can both take place.
The earth itself is another mystery. I’ve experienced this climbing up rice terrace in China, flying in over Mt. Fuji in Japan and staring out over the canyons of southern California. We know about geography and geology. We can explain the movement of sediment and teutonic places. But all that scientific knowledge only seems to add to the beautiful mystery standing there, staring out over it all, feeling small and lost in the vastness and knowing it all in an open sacred sense. No prayers or rituals necessary. Just stand in awesome. No religion necessary. Be the greatest humanist every born and still you can stand there in awe.
Humanity, in its great movements and sudden upheavals is itself another great mystery that we know, have documents and understand and yet, when you think about it, can we truly grasp it. We’re left turning to fantasy, myths and religion to explain the complexity of ourselves. On a TEDTalk Radio Hour recently, one of the speakers said something to the effect that religion isn’t so much about a god as about humans. It really is. We ascribe to the gods of Rome, Greece, the Celts, the Han, even the Hindu gods, human emotions, emotion motivations and human urges. Either we are them, or they are us. Religion is yet another way we strive to understand who we are and why we are here. The great mystery we can touch, love, hold, witness, experience within ourselves and yet so many of us profess to yet not understand.
I love fantasy for exploring all of these things, religion, love, geography, existence itself as seen through whatever mirror of imagination the author chooses. Often I do not see fantasy as an escape but a way to experience more than I can hold within the thread of my own life. I don’t have enough power in my body to fight the demons of hell but within the pages of book, I can do it a thousand times. I only have enough capacity to love fully a few people in my life. Through the written word, I can choose a passion in a hundred lands with a dozen lovers I’d never be brave enough to take as myself. I can explore, experiment, decide what words and doesn’t. Without the role play of fantasy, there are so many risks and steps that I would not have taken in real life. But I was ready, because I’d already tried it, like a dreamer, practicing for waking life.