Worth the Monsters
One of the most significant roles of the artist, whether in the form of painting, music, literature, or whatever, is to open our eyes to the mysteries and wonders of the world and its Creator. More significantly, I believe it is to re-open our eyes. As children, we all were once upon a time much more in tune with our imagination. Our ability to connect to the Imaginative is related to our ability to connect to the spiritual. As beings living in a world where the Spiritual is largely hidden from the Material, we must rely upon faith, or an ability to see beyond the Visible to the Invisible. This requires Imagination. There is an unfortunate connotation that goes with this word "Imagine". We all too often read it as "making things up" but really it just means to see with the mind (or heart!). In fact, our word "fantasy" is related to the Greek word phantazein "make visible"... To see the Unseen...
We as artists use art as mirrors and lenses so that the viewer can see new things and see things anew. In creating, we expose and reflect truths and mysteries and wonders. As humans grow into adulthood, we frequently lose our 6th sense of Imagination. The world of Logic and Reason takes over and hides the world of Faith and Wonder. Unfortunately, it is in the world of Faith and Wonder that we find Romance and Purpose. It is in this world that we find Him, our Creator and our Lover.
Tolkien's greatest achievement was in his development and use of the idea of sub-creation. The concept is simple. We live in a created world that we call reality. However, there is a Reality beyond this reality. Charles Williams (and CS Lewis) would even argue that the spiritual reality is in fact more solid and Real than this perceptible reality of the five senses. This created world gives us glimpses into the Realities of the World Beyond (and I don't mean death... by Beyond, I mean Behind or rather "Above and Beyond"). Similarly, artists create sub-creations that not only reflect in many ways the primary world that we all know but also give us glimpses into the deeper Invisible world.
This is to be expected when the artist is a Believer in that Invisible world. What gets me particularly excited is when I see glimpses into these divine Wonders through art that is not intentionally "spiritual".
Today I watched an episode of Doctor Who on the Sci-Fi Channel. I would characterise myself as a fan of the Doctor. I don't watch it often but I do love the series. Anyway, the episode was "The Girl in the Fireplace" which first aired in 2006 although I had never seen it. In a nutshell, the Doctor discovers an apparently abandoned spaceship in the 51st century and is surprised to find that it is full of time portals to 18th century France. Even more perplexing is that all of them lead to various points in the life of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson or Madame de Pompadour. She is known at first as Reinette, her nickname, so he doesn't initially realise who she is. The Doctor learns that a group of clockwork androids are stalking Reinette for some nefarious purpose. I won't give more away partly because the plot is not necessary to my point and partly because it is arguably one of the best ever episodes of Doctor Who and I don't want to spoil it for any prospective viewer.
For those who aren't familiar with the show, Doctor Who is a Time Lord (One of a race of beings that through technology are able to manipulate time to a greater degree than anyone else). He is essentially ageless and travels through time and space in the TARDIS which is a "ship" where the inside is larger than the outside (I love how that parallels the idea of creation and sub-creation!).
This particular episode was very much about romance. As I watched it, I noticed several moments where ideas were expressed that hinted at deeper truths. When the Doctor first encountered Reinette, she was a child of seven. Discovering the clockwork android and perceiving the threat to the girl, the Doctor said, "It's just a nightmare, Reinette, don't worry, everyone has nightmares. Even monsters under the bed have nightmares!"
"What do monsters have nightmares about?" asked Reinette.
"Me!" replied The Doctor.
That dialogue made me sit up and take notice. For I know that there is a Real Lord of Time that monsters have nightmares about...
Later after Reinette grows into adulthood and becomes Madame de Pompadour, she is threatened by the clockwork androids again. The Doctor continues to rescue her. Finally he figures out the nefarious purposes of the androids and sends Rose, his traveling companion to Reinette with a message. In the ensueing conversation, Rose asks if she is OK. Reinette responds with, "No, I'm not. But you and I both know, don't we, Rose, that the Doctor is worth the monsters."
We live in a world full of monsters and we all long for victory over them and ask why they even exist. I don't necessarily have the answers. All I know is that Jesus is worth the monsters. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego firmly believed when they were threatened with the firy furnace. Maybe He will save us, maybe He won't. But He is able to and "we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up". As Reinette said, "One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel."