I’ve always been a science fiction fan (I bookmarked an interesting piece on the literary nature of science fiction on my delicious page if you’re interested), with a little fantasy thrown in. Karen and I have always tried to “sell” our favorite authors to each other since we’ve been married…every now and again the sale is successful, if only for one book, and we find a treasure…there’s just nothing cooler than stumbling onto a really good book.
My latest adventure at Karen’s request has been back into fantasy fiction: fantasy based on Celtic mythology, to be specific, in the form of Stephen Lawhead’s The Paradise War, a re-release of his 1991 book that I bought Karen for Christmas. I find the nature of the story reminiscent of Narnia in some ways (though I’m only halfway through, so if you’ve read it, don’t argue me there yet). Lawhead’s prose flows smoothly, and his descriptions are beautifully and vividly painted as he sets a scene. A chapter that I read today involved the protagonist listening to a bard sing songs of life: wars and defeat, kindness and love. The character mentions that his entire world became the singing, that he discovered in that moment what it was to be truly alive, and that he slowly forgot his life in the “real world” (he had been transported into The Otherworld for some time as we come upon this scene). The correlating point to this is an earlier description in the book of the noise of the city constantly around him, and the sudden and complete tranquility (defined as the absence of the sounds of an industrialized culture) he experiences upon arrival in The Otherworld.
The striking description of the character listening to the bard sing is that he realized “what it was to be human.”
This evening, shortly after arriving home from work and as the sun was descending for the evening, I was making my way through the apartment to close the blinds. I walked through the kitchen to its single window without turning on the light, and stopped. I was suddenly in a serene moment of sorts, standing in the dark with a cup of hot apple cider in hand, watching the tops of trees move in strong and freezing wind, with just a hint of pink left in the dusk sky to make their bare branches a silhouette. They were reaching up to that sky as it became grayer and grayer, and, as the show ended, faded to black.
Coming full circle, this is what the Celts would call a “time between times.”
There was a huge period of my life in which I was too busy to notice these sorts of things. Thankfully, that period stopped short a few years ago. Like the memory of Lawhead’s character fading of his previous life, I have difficulty remembering the hyper-busy schedule I once kept, not noticing events like this evening’s dusk long enough to even pause. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still incredibly busy, but I’m glad that I’ve learned to slow down and soak in moments like this evening’s brief encounter with the time between times, a moment when God was no longer as much “up there” as He was “right here.” Because, like Lawhead’s character, it was in that moment that I felt truly alive, that I remembered what it is to be human.