Fairy Tale Tangent

In reading Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories,” I had a thought. He says that if man ever reached the point where he was not interested in truth anymore, then he would also lose interest in fairy tales, since the delight in such stories comes from the knowledge that we are subcreating. The story goes that some people felt depressed or suicidal when they saw Avatar, because the beauty wasn’t real. Is this a symptom of good fantasy, or the side-effect of a postmodern abandonment of truth?
Good fairy tales allow you to enjoy the juxtaposition of our creation with God’s. Do bad ones make us hate the real world and long for the story? I think so. In that case, I would submit that the story has ceased to be a story and has become a lie. The beauty of fairy tales rests in God’s good world, not apart from it.

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Glory Too Fast

Here is a recording I came across yesterday.
Listening to it was one of the few things that have left me speechless in my life.

Once you have listened to a few minutes of it, allow me to explain why I was speechless.
The modern paradigm of evolution has, by and large, attempted to rob us of any concept of objective beauty. If the world and all that is in it is not in some way a guided thing, if it developed on its own, then one would expect to see many fundamental, deep, and unsurpassable divides between species. There would be a fundamental incompatibility between the multitude of branching paths,just like technology of different generations.

This proves it wrong.

The crickets are singing in several octaves, but the scale they are using is the exact (and I mean perfectly) same eight-tone scale that Bach, Beethoven, Schutz, Mozart, Handel, Praetorius, Josquin de Prez, and any other classic composer used. Apart from accidentals (halfway points between pitches) the crickets are using our good old, Sound of Music do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. It is a musical system of harmonic sounds that function together naturally: the world of sound is built so that these sounds actually belong together and work, just as certainly as a biochemical reaction or gravity. It’s built into the world.

How is this overlap between crickets and humans even possible? It’s a sound too fast for our ears to hear. It wasn’t our sound. Why should we expect to find it appealing, on an evolutionary framework? There’s simply no way for it to benefit us, or for us even to be aware of its existence.

But when we find it, it is like finding a painting on a rock in the middle of a forest. Someone left it there. It was supposed to be beautiful, and it was placed there intentionally, for us to find. Pure gift. It is as astonishing as the footprint in the sand was to Robinson Crusoe. We thought we were alone, and look: someone has been here the whole time.

Not only this, but the way it was found implies an even more organic connection between crickets and humans. Not only does the sound sound beautiful to both, but it becomes beautiful to us only when adjusted to match our lifespan. We didn’t just slow it down until it sounded good: there was a mathematical operation that occurred and it resulted in beauty. In logical form, it looks like this: [cricket music:cricket lifespan :: Human lifespan: ???]. There is a fundamental proportionality here, a concept that resonates far more with a medieval perspective on life than with our modern one. For the medievals, the world was structured according to proportions, mathematical regularity, and the world was a dance. The planetary spheres made music to the Lord. Everything was organized and that organization produced beauty and music. For them, these crickets would fit right in. For us, it is a sledgehammer to the brittle concrete of skepticism and reductionistic materialism. Both crickets and humans were made by the same God, a God who is beautiful. And that is why the crickets sound like choirs. Because they know to sing God’s praise. It was glory too fast for us, but we caught up. Our ears are tuned now a little better to hear those praises, and we must, if we value our humanity, learn to join in.

Listen.
And sing.

Palouse

I

On a dry road,
Moving between beauty and beauty,
The road itself beautiful in the light of the near and better things.
My journey is named by the name of Home,
And yet this road is homeward, to, from, away, and nowhere
To many people.
The pages of my story unscroll between Heaven,
And Heaven-yearning hills, and the ancient, secret earth,
Immovable under our light and mortal touch.

 

II

How can my soul wrestle the beauty of truth onto a page?
I see, after all, with only my eyes:
Vision intermediaried by nerve, retina, pupil,
And my own clouded perception.
I cannot write what I know, for I only see what I do not know,
Not knowing what my sight sees:
Least of all known things my reflected self, pensive and silent between nature and story.
Perhaps it is better silent.
Perhaps I will learn to hear as well.