Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fables & Parables

fa·ble (fā'bəl) pronunciation n.

1. A usually short narrative making an edifying or cautionary point and often employing as characters animals that speak and act like humans.
2. A story about legendary persons and exploits.
3. A falsehood; a lie.

par·a·ble (păr'ə-bəl) pronunciation n.
A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson. (other definitions say a parable points to a moral, religious, or philosophical point)

[Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin parabola, from Greek parabolē, from paraballein, to compare : para-, beside; see para–1 + ballein, to throw.]
[from www.answers.com]

Been thinking about this ::

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
3 For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts will they multiply to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned to fables.

I have attended several fan cons of the fantasy/sci-fi genre, and while I enjoyed them very much, I've sometimes wondered where the line is as far as God is concerned. Its very evident in such circles that many people are focusing on imaginary worlds in preference to thinking about the real mysteries and wonders in life. On one level, this makes sense to me, as I like to 'escape' this way too sometimes. But I still wonder why I should want to escape so completely? Sure, you might not want to think about this month's bills or next month's elections. But what's wrong with contemplating waterfalls or flying birds about then? Even on days when sun isn't shining here, it is somewhere. Why isn't that good enough?

So...what makes it so wonderful when anachronistic or imaginary cultural details are added? [I am asking myself too]. What fascinates me in a fable?

Seriously, we live in an age of wonder. Nature is full of beauty, and even here and there mankind makes decent additions to the inherited wealth we have from our Maker. Even when we, as a race, have stamped it out for a bit, beauty will come sneaking back in the most unexpected places-- in an accidental collage of strange skyward angles between shop and scraper and in the concentrated understanding of the beauty of a single blade of grass, where it has forced back life into breathless concrete. ..and that's just the background of our lives. We are surrounded by, in fact we use many objects that are as magic to most of us. What Robert Louis Stevenson said is still true::

'THE WORLD is so full of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.'

We don't lack for dramatic tension either. Our world is already at the point where people's hearts have failed them for fear of those things that may be coming upon the earth. Although I acknowledge this is a reason people might want to distract themselves, it seems odd to me that so many then end up enjoying imaginary worlds where the problems are written to be as bad as anything they're avoiding.

I think its because there is a hero who can set things right in those stories. There is an answer, a hopeful conclusion. Its not the problems that scare us as much as the lack of certain answers to them. In the fables we enjoy most ~ in all our books, games, and movies ~ answers are generally part of the package. We identify with the characters and, in our dreams, we become that hero (or sidekick or whatever).

My hope has always been that the heroism we attempt in our favorite dreams will give us the courage to face the real dragons of our existence, but that doesn't seem to happen very often. So then I began pondering that reality. I try to be as good in life as I try to be in my own stories (don't always succeed, of course). Doesn't everyone? If not, then why wouldn't you try?

Why are we not as good as our dreams? Christians have an answer for that one, but the rest of you, why doesn't it seem odd that you can never achieve the altruistic h eighths your best inner self aspires to? Why don't we try more often to live the values and courage that sound so great in our fantasies? Because we are safer in our stories if we screw up? Because we can't really screw up? We just hit the 'rewind' and re imagine the scene... That has to be part of it. I can deal with the idea of a little practicing in the padded training arena of our minds, but... when do we graduate?

& What about the wwwaaayyy out there stuff... vampires, Jedis, elves, and octarine fire ~If our hero selves win in such dreams will our necessarily fictional answers make our own life's concerns seem less real or the fictional solutions so appealing we spend all our time longing to apply an unavailable answer?

Perhaps this frustration is why so many seem to be content with Walter Mitter-ing their lives, promising themselves that if they only WERE an all powerful...whatever..they'd make everything go right. I suspect, however, that the reason our internal hero so rarely steps off the pages of the dream book of our lives in any guise is because we know only to well we are not fit to receive a true hero.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Campbell's work on the eternal hero, but I was astonished to realize when I read it how much every heart aches for the return of the true hero. It seems we all long to be the good guy who wins the day! But then we desire to succeed and suspect they would not hire our hero. You wake feeling at one with the world but then fly into a petty fit of temper... Even our heroes have come to share many of our failings. Writers will say this makes them more 'real.' It does. It also makes them less heroic. Why? We seem to have a very high standard from which all our story heroes vary. We need the hope they provide.

There was one story of a perfect hero.

Most people in the west know the story of the perfect man. We are told of his loving heart, amazing gifts, and his courageous stand against the hypocrisy and venality of his day. We are told this hero sacrificed his own life, not only to save those he knew and loved, but those who did not even know him. He literally gave his sinless life to save the world.

As soon as I said "sinless" most of you knew who I meant. Jesus' sinlessness is something that starts many growling, but wouldn't be great if we, like he, could honestly say that we never hurt another living soul (without excellent cause) or dishonored the real God (so many of us are still trying to be sure who that is!)

Even if you feel Christ's rebukes to those he said were going the wrong way were 'unnecessarily hurtful to their person hoods' (personally I think hell is likely to hurt a lot worse!), you cannot deny that he helped many people and inspired all those around him to do and be much more than they had ever imagined. Under Jesus' leadership they changed the world.

....unless, of course, you refuse to believe that Jesus ever really existed. Failing that, you might claim that the 'real' story has been lost or that we do not know who Jesus 'really' was. Perhaps you'll dredge up some old heresies fomented by someone like ole Diotrephes trying to wrest leadership away from the apostles by inventing a new tale that besmirches the role Christ gave them....

And so the power of the story is used to turn the tide of mankind into another channel. Some are more than entertained by Brown's fable, they are thoroughly beguiled because they wish to be. A recent survey about summed it up:: People said after seeing the movie that they came out confirmed in whatever beliefs they had going in. In truth, however, a fiction-based novel cannot 'confirm' anything. Besides, the best stories inspire you to think for yourself, not sell you on a conclusion, especially a provably wrong one.

Perhaps this turning from truth & truthful allegories to the answers made up in books & movies is part of what Paul referred to? Stories are not, in and of themselves, wrong. Jesus used stories to teach those around him.

Mark 4:2 And he taught them many things by parables,

I have long held that the best stories taught people real lessons about life around them, essentially serving as modern parables. For example: Star Wars III had me thinking hopefully that certain youngsters would 'get it' when they saw how the Emperor deceived Anakin by a combination of directed enticements, offers of direct promotion, 'professional' charm, and by smearing his opposition with his own behaviors. Why did it work? Materially, the 'good guys' seemed to offer a lot less. Poor ole Obi Wan had already given his best gifts to Anakin. His ward knew he should be grateful, and mouths such sentiments, but we watch him continually complaining that the Jedi masters aren't doing 'enough.' They aren't competing for his favor, aren't promoting Anakin in every way that he wants. Mace & Yoda offered him the consolation of truth, loyalty, friendship and discipline. They offered a way of life worth living, not more power, grist for further ambitions. They offered him a way to cope with life's changes, but Anakin desired power over it, sure everything would be better if he got his own way. The truth became inconvenient to Anakin, he was drawn away by his own lusts to become Darth Vader, shedding his old values and friends along the way. Yet Darth Vader realized little of what he'd hoped to gain by his betrayals.

This truly happens. Bad choices often lead to bad outcomes. Call it Karma or Jesus (you know who I chose), there is a force for justice in our universe.

Unfortunately many decided to identify with obvious power Anakin held as he fell from grace. They remembered his youth and beauty in the ominous black robed figure who gained the limited power of fear over worlds - at the cost of his own soul. They choose to believe they could have all he gained, without paying the same price. According to what I have read about the online communities associated with Lucas' saga, this was not an unusual response.

I had hoped they would see. But your eyes must be open to see what is in front of you. Watching what people choose to glorify in the Star Wars, Myst, Star Trek, Harry Potter etc has been very enlightening as to why people don't seem to get proper parables out of them ( the point of fables re: def 1) in the same way everyone understand's Aesop's, Chinese philosophical writings, or many of Christ's teachings. When the text doesn't tell you what the value reference is, when the worldview context is indirect, people tend to interpret what remains in terms of their own wishes...what they'd like to be true.

I see Atrus wanting to help all those he meets and balancing, imperfectly, his love of wonder with his dedication to his own family. I see Harry Potter trying to do his best and be his best from a bad starting point. Sometimes he is seen as a hero, sometimes he gets blamed as part of the problem. OOohh Can I relate to that! I see Obi Wan doing his best against impossible odds, holding on to his faith that a balancing force will fight with him for the right and make his sacrifices, even his losses, worthwhile in the end. I see the Ent, holding on to the ancient ways, the paths that bring peace, but ready to fight to save what they hold most dear.

We see what we desire but we cannot take it by force. But, if we will seek to do the best we can for those around us, we may find one day that its already in our pocket.

As Christ said:
Matthew 13:13 Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Take the quiz: "What Star Wars Character Are You?"

Obi-Wan Kenobi
You are a level headed person who uses the Force to compliment your natural talent


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
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May the Force Be With You....always