Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Curious Thrill

What if I told you that other worlds are real? What if I told you that there is more to life than routines and to-do lists, more to language than syntax and commas, more to the tree on your front lawn than bark and leaves and photosynthesis, more to beauty than what is in the eye of the beholder? Would I sound crazy or would you nod your head slowly because it just makes sense?

“There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Hamlet, William Shakespeare

The day was overcast, the clouds leaden and bulging. You know the type of day. It’s the type of day when you walk around with your shoulders hunched and your head bent low. The type of day when time slips past in slow-motion. I was curled up in the corner by the window, my knees drawn close to my chest and a faded green book resting against them. Tree and Leaf, it was called, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
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As I gently closed the book, a solemn reverence kept me silent and still. I leaned my head against the cool windowpane, thoughts swirling. For the first time in the many years I had lived in that house, I looked at the old oak tree that spread its shade over our front lawn. Now, that oak tree was a very normal oak tree. Trunk, branches, leaves. The works. It was like any other oak tree. But as I sat there staring at the tree against the background of the grey sky, my perspective shifted ever so slightly. For a moment I recognized that the tree was not just a tree. There was more to it. To my eyes, the edges of the leaves appeared to be outlined with a distant glimmer of silver.

Startled, I tilted my head to look into the sky. Even then I saw that impenetrable blanket of clouds differently. I saw them not as the sky, but as a veil. Staring up into the fluffy folds of the clouds, colored in swirled shades of grey, I could imagine that if I poked a hole into the layers, the clouds would dissipate, dissolving in shreds. Behind them, I knew, I would find not the blue sky but another world. Or perhaps more of this world than was commonly visible or acknowledged.

When I blinked, the moment had gone. My surroundings became ordinary once more. But I had not forgotten what I had seen. The shock—the thrill—of it still tingled inside me. While it did, I hurriedly scrawled a few words in my notebook, trying to process what I had encountered.  I wrote:

It’s like there is a world beyond this one…It’s a place just beyond my reach.

It wasn’t the first time that I felt such a thing. It certainly wasn’t the last. In the past months, I have finally encountered a quote which gave that feeling—or awareness—its proper name.

A Curious Thrill.

"I felt a curious thrill, as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English." --J.R.R. Tolkien

When I read this quote, I nodded my head slowly because it just made sense. It seemed to me that Tolkien had (once again) said just what I was feeling in a way that I probably would never be able to communicate myself. I had felt at various moments throughout my life that there was something—in a strain of music, a sunset, a smile, or (especially) in a beautifully wrought sentence—that lay beyond my comprehension and experience. I could feel myself reaching and grasping, trying to weave my fingers through the trailing bands of mist to grasp it. But I never could get a grasp on it. In an attempt to describe this feeling, some might employ the words enchantment or mystical. That’s not quite right, I think.

These curious thrills, I believe, are remnants, reminders, and glimmers. Of what?

C.S. Lewis calls this sort of sensation a longing and I believe it is an apt description.

We live in a fallen world, a world that is not as it was intended to be. As Lewis would say, “We were made for something greater.” I believe that this knowledge, whether or not we are immediately aware of it, exists within each of us. Sometimes, we encounter a thing, a place, a person, a sound, or we are just overcome by a realization that reminds us of that Something Greater for which we were created. It calls to that restless spirit within us that longs for the world to be made right, for the day when all is restored and made perfect. It points us to the Truth. It is then that we are overcome with the sense of A Curious Thrill.
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Those curious thrills, I should add, aren’t just about things beyond or mysterious or remote. They are about life. They are about the here and the now as well as the swirling past and the murky future. They are about children and adults, birds and flowers, thunderstorms and waterfalls. They are about peace and war, work and play. The curious thrills are about the ordinary and the extraordinary, all at once.

So join me, will you? Let us seek out these curious thrills together. Let us remember who we are. Let us go Further In and Further Up.

Let us seek out the adventure that is sent to us.