✨Miracles happen all the time we just need to slow down.
✨Have you ever experienced an ordinary miracle? If so, share your experience(s) I the comments.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 20th, 2017.
Mark Twain once wrote, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” While I do not fully understand the meaning of the great American author’s words, I find myself drawn to the concept that reality is odd, weird, peculiar, and problematic.
Seeming senseless suffering occurs daily throughout the globe: wars, famine, and violation of human rights. I do not want this post to turn into a philosophical treatise on the problem of evil. Please refer to the writings of St. Augustine or The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis for a clear and authoritative outline of the issue.
To be clear, although I experienced a push from reality toward despair when things get overwhelmed, it is interesting that fiction pulls me away from this strangeness and helps center myself.
Over the past year, I have delved into the DC Comics Universe- the realm of Superman, Batman, The Flash, and Green Lantern. I am most recently reading a voluminous story arc from the New 52 series on Superman.
Here are three ways that reading fiction will help provide stability in your life when reality is too strange.
Larger than Life, Yet Relatable Characters
Stories portray transformation and inner conflicts within characters. Superhero comics contain traditional character developments. They also add layers to the story through its main actors possessing enhanced powers. Instead of alienating the reader, I find I am drawn into a comic book through the device of the dual identity of a superhero—their superhero title and their secret identity.
I will use Barry Allen/The Flash as an example because I loving running. The main power of this character revolves around speed and endurance.
Most versions have Barry’s desire to help others stemming from the death of his mother at a young age. Later endowed with super-speed and Speed-Force powers from a lightning in a laboratory, Barry soon dons the mantle of The Flash!
Despite his ability to nearly travel at the speed of light, Barry oftentimes has to slow down to solve both personal and professional problems. By reading these comics this superhero appeals to me because I sometimes tend to be impatient and act rashly at times.
Alleviation through Art
I am a visual learner. Illustrations bring me closer to the events of the comic book story. When I am reviewing books to check out from the library, one of the things I look for in a good comic is appealing artwork.
The Blackest Night Green Lantern story-line contained popping colors and heroes decked in hues highlighting their unique power rings. I felt like I dove into a verbal kaleidoscope in that crossover event. I cannot quite put my finger on it but something about the artwork of the New 52 DC Series soothes my anxiety. Without alleviation through art, I would return an unread story back to the library as opposed to diving further into the comic book universe.
In a galaxy far, far away…there is no place like home
Along with the character development of DC’s superheroes [and even non-powered support characters] and the beautiful art, I have come to greatly enjoy the move to solar system based settings. Although strangeness abounds in the various planetary systems and alternative timelines, I get a sense of excitement and wonder instead of fear from my mind travels to exotic scenes!
The freshness is anchored by the stability of the characters in the DC universe. Despite reading a revisionist version of Superman, Batman, or other heroes, a certain familiarity and tradition still remains front and center.
Traveling on these journeys provide small interludes of rest from the weariness of reality. For instance, the phones were going of the hook at my job today. I encountered strange and perplexing questions I never dealt with before. During my break time, I become an observer of Superman’s battle against his archenemy—Brainiac. I returned to the real world energized to complete my day’s remaining work.
Is Truth Stranger than Fiction?
Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ a question that in an old as time but still fresh and relevant today, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Truth, reality, actuality is a perplexing thing to grasp. Humanity is not called to fully understand the mysteries of the universe yet creation is laden with hints at what the purpose of the real world is all about.
Fiction can help you find purpose in this life. Through fiction you gain a renewed and broader perspective when returning to the “real world”. I will leave you to ponder the wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien legendary creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Referring to fantasy as a natural human activity he states,
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?
💡Writing tip #8—Use short paragraphs, sentences, and words to pack punch to your copy.
Writing is analogous to the flow of a football game.
Think of the headline as the kickoff. It gets your the attention of your audience.
The first sentence leads to the second.
Keep your sentences short to keep your readers’ attention.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you need to have a longer sentence—especially when you want to provide facts or evidence for a claim.
Use those short punchy sentences to your advantage.
🏈 Short punchy sentences are like tossing the touchdown. Immediate impact.
🏈 Longer sentences are similar to that sustained drive when a team goes the length of a field to score.
🏈 Both are required to keep the attention of your reader. Change the sentence length. Keep the pace moving for your readers.
Short. Short. Long.
Let me know in the comments. 🙂
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I love random facts! I find they are great conversation starters and help me to trigger and bridge past and seemingly unconnected memories together. Speaking of the subject of bridges, I recently learned that the world’s longest bridge is over 102 miles! Carrying trains this incredible engineering feat connects the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai.
Aside from being massive architectural projects and accomplishments, the daily function of a bridge is a little more mundane—it serves as a connection between two points that otherwise could not meet or communicate. All Catholics, and Christians in general, are called to act a bridge between God and humanity. Examining Scripture, Tradition, and evidence from a strictly logical standpoint, I put forth three reasons why all Christians need to be bridge-builders
For the Bible tells Me So
You do not have to look far in the New Testament before you discover examples of Jesus promoting unity and building relationships with traditional 1st century outsider groups. In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the ancient water-cooler, the well of Jacob. He reached out to a Samaritan who Jews ostracized during ancient times. Despite this, Jesus provides her an offer of everlasting water.
She readily exclaims, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).
The Gospel of St. Luke abounds with examples of Jesus ministering to outcasts and “building bridges” to all of humanity. I will list just a few: shepherds being invited to witness the birth of Christ (Luke 2:15-20), call of Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32), forgiving the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50, and sending out of the seventy-two disciples to minister to others (Luke 10: 1-10).
Finally, I want to share the instance in the Acts of the Apostles where possible discord over whether followers of Christ needed to be circumcised in the custom of Judaism. In Acts 15 the Council of Jerusalem took place and God provided unity in this affair by bestowing authority to Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Continuing on the theme of unity promoted by papal authority, Pope Francis on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall told Christians to, “Build bridges of understanding and dialogue.”
In the pope is a visible sign of the unity of the Catholic Church. Catholics look to the pope with honor and as a leader of the faith not because he tells us but because Jesus gave us the gift of the papacy.
Like Francis, the late Pope John Paul II promoted ecumenism [fancy word for promoting unity J) The Polish pontiff tells us in his encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint [On Commitment to Ecumenism],
Together with all Christ’s disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon God’s plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians into unity. Indeed, “the Church is not a reality closed in on herself. Rather, she is permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavor, for she is sent to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the mystery of communion which is essential to her, and to gather all people and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an ‘inseparable sacrament of unity’…The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God (nos. 5-6).
Brains, brains, brains
I was binge watching an episode of The Walk Dead [YES I DID JUST TRANSITION FROM THE POPE TO ZOMBIES!!] a couple summers ago and took an important lesson from the show. In dire situations humans will work together to survive despite coming from various backgrounds.
Police officers, farmers, and pizza delivery boys were able to unite for a common objective [avoid being turned into a zombie]. I came away from the show thinking: should all people, in particular Christians unite?
Be a Bridge-Builder
From a strictly logical standpoint people tend to be happier when working together as a team. This is true for me. At work I am more fulfilled when I work to serve the rest of my co-workers and assist throughout the day as opposed to having a self-serving mentality. Moreover, the old adage “two heads are better than one” is true when it comes to uniting and forging improved relationships.
Please do not interpret my urging for all Christians to be bridge-makers as a full on endorsement of compromising your Christians values completely. There are some non-negotiables I hold as a Catholic-Christian. I will not sell out my faith and I believe in the value of life at all stages.
That being said, when it comes to me interacting people with completely different world outlooks from myself I need to exercise patience, clarity in my thoughts, and charity in my dialogue to help others see the value in my positions. I also need to be humble enough to see things from others’ perspectives as well.
Bridge-building is not an easy process—it is long and toilsome. With the gift of understanding and patience from the Holy Spirit such dialogue is possible!
January 3rd celebrates two important events: the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and the anniversary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien. As a Catholic obvious the former has to take precedence, I mean Jesus is the center of the Catholic faith. However, I think it is ironic, maybe even providential, of the placement of the great English literary figure’s birthday within the season of Christmastide.
Creation Leads to the Creator
The famed creator of Middle Earth himself was a devout Catholic and belief in Jesus Christ permeated his entire life. I admire Tolkien because of his creativity, devotion, and ability to invoke joy into my life simply by reading his works or striking up a conversation with a random stranger about his life!
According to the Baltimore Catechism paragraph 215, Catholics honor saints because
“We honor the saints in heaven because they practiced great virtue when they were on earth, and because in honoring those who are the chosen friends of God we honor God Himself.”
The excitement, peace, and joy I receive when reading, researching, or talking about Middle Earth ultimately is aimed at a higher reality. A deeper reality of full communion with God in Heaven! Tolkien once wrote, “After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’.”
All of creation act as signposts pointing to God’s existence.
The same is true for the hidden or not so hidden Easter-eggs contained in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The date of the formation of the Fellowship—that is, the group of representatives of Middle Earth races—actually is December 25th!
The Little Way of the Hobbit
Much of Tolkien’s theology, whether he would have wanted to admit it or not, reminds me of the spirituality of The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. Her path towards holiness consisted of relying on God’s mercy and forgiveness while seeking ordinary daily actions to show love of God and neighbor.
The French saint wrote, “Miss no single opportunity of making small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” Whenever I read and reflect upon that quote I am also reminded of the following words of Tolkien, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
Fantasy and Tolkien geeks now well that the bearer of the One Ring [the embodiment of temptation] was a hobbit. If only one word would suffice to describe a hobbit to individuals not too aware of this fictional Middle Earth race it would be diminutive. Littleness, at least in appearance, is the chief trait of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings.
Even the smallest person can impact the future
Like St. Therese of Lisieux, Tolkien recognizes that the smallest person can have a great impact on human history. The greatest event in human history is the Incarnation—God being man in the person of Jesus Christ in the form of a little baby.
I honor J.R.R. Tolkien today because his “complex”, extensive, and intricate sub-creation of Middle Earth provokes a sense of joy in the little acts done in great love and sacrifice. Ultimately, after reading any of his works, I am reminded to be grateful for creative genius not as a worship of the fantasy author. Instead, I honor him as he points me to the Real and Truth Author of All of Reality!
“At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –Philippians 2:10-11