"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

30 October 2007

Happy Endings

Last week on Criminal Minds, the team searched for a missing child, finding out in the course of the search that she had been abused by her uncle. The quotation at the end was from G.K. Chesterton: "Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed."

I was thinking about this yesterday morning while reflecting on why I write. Generally speaking, children's literature does have happy endings, because we know that children need to believe in hope. And I am always seeking a vision, an ideal, hope, when I write. And so I wrote:

"I am, then, seeking happy endings when I write. Not sappy, unrealistic, 'perfect' endings, but ones that are possible in a broken world which has been entered by redemptive power, ones that are possible because brokenness is not all there is. The flawed beauty we see all around us, the flawed goodness of people we meet on our way, tells us this -- so much of beauty and goodness within the brokenness, if we look for it, tells us this, tells us that the world is indeed still 'charged with the grandeur of God,' that 'there lives the dearest freshness deep down things' even in a world 'seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil.'

"I write to find and articulate gems of joy, glimpses of the ideal, prisms of hope. I only know that my world is flawed because I know there is an ideal by which to judge it. And without this ideal, if we reject the vision of an ideal, there is only despair. We must offer hope by offering the ideal we glimpse, the vision shimmering always on the edge of sight."

I have never been ashamed of happy endings, of beauty, of hope. I am grieved that so many in the past century have found it more likely that life doesn't offer these, that so many have turned from the search and offered the lies of despair in the name of realism. Because, as I also wrote:

"I read for the same reason: I read to find the ideal. Not to avoid reality, but to see that reality is not the mere observable broken world that drowns me every morning when I wake, that drowns me when I wake from a literary world that has drawn me into its beauty, when I wake from a rare immersion in the reality of God's love. Reality is not brokenness and despair; reality is redemption with all its hope in the midst of the brokenness and despair."

Our happy endings here will always be tinged with some edge of sadness. And yet -- there is an ultimate happy ending where all tears, all sorrow will be washed away forever. How, otherwise, can one find courage to live?


sarah jane said...

"pangs of joy" (c.s. lewis)

alaiyo said...

I love that phrase -- from _Surprised by Joy_, isn't it?