I’ve learned to doubt, to find the questions deep within me and let them bubble to the surface.
I’ve learned to not be afraid, to not retreat in fear to the safety of concrete walls and revealed truths.
And part of this process is intellectual—it has to be. Graduate school requires it. I don’t write much on the blog about that other me—the one who talks in class, reads hundreds of pages a week, and writes pages and pages a semester. Honestly, the blog is often a retreat from him with his rigorous demand for verifiable evidence and concise arguments and tight intellectual constructs. I can be freer here to muse, to wonder, to wander.
But a lot of this process—this journey I am on—is emotional. It’s spiritual. It’s loose and ill-defined. And even the intellectual enterprise on which I am embarked is only motivated by the passion I have for my work. Because my work only matters inasmuch as it somehow points out or contributes to or reflects what is true.
And by truth I don’t mean facts. I never have. I mean something far deeper and broader. Lord of the Rings is true even though it’s not factual. It corresponds to what Lewis would call the deep magic.
And the place where I most encounter truth—where it is most compelling—is in stories. Really good stories. I trust in what N.T. Wright calls story-authority. He writes:
“Story authority, as Jesus knew only too well, is the authority that really works. Throw a rule book at people’s head, or offer them a list of doctrines, and they can duck or avoid it, or simply disagree and go away. Tell them a story, though, and you invite them to come into a different world. . . . Stories determine how people see themselves and how they see the world. Stories determine how they experience God, and the world, and themselves, and others. Great revolutionary movements have told stories about the past and present and future. They have invited people to see themselves in that light, and people’s lives have been changed.” From an essay titled “Scripture and the Authority of God” available here.
Last Friday, my long-time friend Drew and I went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I won’t spoil the movie in case you haven’t seen it, but I will say that the movie is true.
Watching it was compelling. Like with all good movies and stories, I found myself drawn into its world for a time, forgetting my own. My education allowed me to describe what I saw (archetypes, intertextuality, genres) but it did not allow me to explain why it was compelling.
The truth of the film can be summed up, perhaps, in these two statements made by the main character:
“We accept the love that we feel we deserve”
“All I know is that, in that moment, I was infinite.”
These two statements, abstracted from the story, lose their power. But they are proven in the film. And they are true.
And so, today, I am thankful for stories.