Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Importance of Fantasy

Us Catholics have begun a "New Springtime" according to Blessed John Paul the Great. With the aid of the Catechism, the Scriptures, the Magisterium, and our communities, we have begun a period of discovering anew our faith, a new understanding filled with a new zeal for what we have found. We study, pray, and live to the best of our ability what has been discovered. This means bumping up against all sorts of things in the world around us, particularly things like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and other fantasy series. And that's before we get into the plethora of horror movies that keep uh...gracing(!) our theatres and private rooms. While Lord of the Rings is mostly accepted by Catholics as a Catholic work, many good and moral Catholics I've met seem to have issue with the fantasy and horror genres in general. I find this a bit baffling, to be honest. Those two genres are more Catholic in nature than most, and we should be going out and owning those genres of fiction! This is because both fantasy and horror remind us of essential truths that other genres cannot and, since we live in a post-Rationlistic culture that has a hard time taking spirits seriously, it's more important than ever that we stand up for these truths, truths that are mostly ignored by modern Catholics in favor of a much fuzzier, friendlier Catholicism that's lost it's teeth.

1. We are not alone.  The basic tenets of Catholicism and Orthodoxy show us that we are not the only intelligent beings in the universe, and never have been. No, this does NOT mean E.T. That's a horrible stereotype that needs to be...addressed.  While we don't know if there are other corporeal intelligent beings, we do know that we are surrounded by angels, demons, and the souls of the righteous and unrighteous departed. Our world is a lot more like a tossed salad than a melting pot. Fairy tales in particular enforce this worldview, by describing the supernatural things that happen around people in pretty graphic and down-to-earth terms.

2. Most of the things that we are surrounded by  that we need to keep track of are malevolent.  I can now hear the rolling of eyes that are happening right now. "Ah, demons aren't anything to worry about, right? Ghosts aren't anything to worry about, right?" Wrong.  Each and every diocese in America has been required to have an exorcist, and for a good reason! Things like witchcraft and Satanism are very real and need to be watched carefully. Most fantasy stories revolve around how power can corrupt, warning to be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

3. Using the power of evil never gets you anywhere you truly want to go.  I mean, welcome to Lord of the Rings, right? The idea that we can't use power that's not meant for us is a huge staple of fantasy. Another good amount of fantasy plots revolve around the evil artifact or power corrupting someone into being the next Sauron or White Witch.

4. Evil deserves nothing less than absolute hatred. The type of hatred you need to go to war over.  Conflict is a necessary part of fantasy: you can't get along without it. Life is struggle, it is painful. You can't get around that, and fantasy makes no attempt to. In addition, the types of evil that a person can run into are usually best revealed to people in indirect ways first, through stories, so that way when you do meet something that reminds you of the evil you've heard of you know how to deal with it. Without that backing there's no way to deal with some of the more sinister things you'll run into in life.

5. It's actually easier to process for the average brain. If I started telling you how to operate a complex piece of machinery in the abstract you wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about, would you? Well, most of us wouldn't. But if I told you a story that resembled the process most of us would remember that, and be able to operate the piece of machinery. The same's true for all of life. Stories are always preferable, particularly with sensitive stuff. And considering how weird life can get, doesn't it make sense that the stories would be just as weird and fantastical?

Those are just five reasons I can think of right now. As time goes on I've become more and more convinced that fantasy is a necessary part of anybody's life, and I'll certainly be writing on the importance of it as time goes on.

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