why the novelist might be mad, and other maybes

Now might be a good time to grab a sock monkey and read a fairytale.

The past week has been distressing for pretty much everyone, for a lot of different reasons.  Sometimes, there’s suffering so great our minds can’t grasp it.  Sometimes, there’s grief too deep for weeping.

A glance at the headlines drives us to wonder – why?  And why Haiti?  Hasn’t that country suffered too much, too often, too long, already?  Waves of unwarranted agony shatter the backwaters of our minds, and drench our hearts with Oswald Chambers’s grim assessment that ‘the basis of life is not reasonable, but wild and tragic, and the only way out is through redemption.’

We want to understand.  We stare at the statistics, we watch the footage, we read the articles.  And for all we try, we can’t.  We won’t.  We don’t want the world to be this way.  An aeon of human existence on, we still hope the world will be different.

It’s been a strange week.

In the middle of the nightmare, something different glimmered.  Monday came as a pause, a silent reminder, of a man who hoped the world could be different.  And who helped millions of others have the same dream.

Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world.  Or, perhaps more correctly, he helped people see that they could change the world.  And showed them how to do it.

In the middle of a reminder that the world hasn’t changed comes another reminder that it can change.  Settle on that juxtaposition for a while.  There’s beauty there, and horror—hope commingled with despair.

Will believe not only that the world can change, but that it still need changing?  Will we be willing to confront not only the cataclysmic tragedy of disaster, but the daily tragedy of injustice and oppression?  Will we be willing to say that not only the big things, but the little things, not only the big evils, but the little evils, have need for change.

We may well be.  And that’s why it’s a time for fairytales.

For a peddlers of fictions like myself, there’s and added layer of helplessness to all this.  As Jerry Jenkins wrote on his blog, ‘We want to help in tangible ways and wonder how. As an author, I deal in books, and frankly, books are not what are needed right now in Haiti.’

Jenkins came up with a striking solution, which he explains better than I could.  But even given that, what about our writing?  Our subcreation?  What about the power of words?

To ask whether or not the novelist is mad seems terribly untimely.  It seems an odd week to talk about sock monkeys and sword canes.  But this time for weeping is what they’re there for.  The irrational, the tragic, the anguished explode into our lives at the worst moments.  This will never change.  And yet the world sometimes does.

We can’t understand the questions we’re trying to ask.  But we can create worlds that let us ask them, sideways and upside down, convoluted and backwards—but asked, and that honestly.  In the subcreated world of story, we have room to think and rage and weep.  Stories give us room to hope.

The novelist is mad because he’s convinced that a sock monkey and a sword cane might help him understand the world.  The novelist is mad because he thinks people have a right to laugh, and to wonder.  The novelist is mad because he thinks the right words could change the world.  The novelist is mad because he dares to hope.

Yeats reminded us that ‘The world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.’

That’s an invitation to a fairytale.

3 thoughts on “why the novelist might be mad, and other maybes

  1. From the torrent of cataclysm and horrific injustice in this world – comes the opportunity for Humanity’s finest hour.

  2. Eric – that was interesting! I did not know about this side of Charles Wesley. It reminds me a bit of Voltaire after the Lisbon earthquake and the creation of Candide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s