Originally Posted September 30 2016
As a fantasy reader, novelist, and avid world builder, I’ve always found mythology fascinating. However, the more about it that I read, the more I find it proves a line from my latest book very true;
“The powers of a god are meaningless without the heart of one.”
While people find it fairly easy to imagine having god-like powers, and can even start to wrap their minds around the concept of omnipotence, I find every writer at some point stumbles into the pitfall of limiting their celestial creations with the handicap of a VERY human heart.
This is one of the reasons it is (usually) fairly simple to sort the origin stories you read. You have those who crave power and thus enslave until they are overthrown. Those who start out with good intentions, but let their paranoia and fears corrupt them into villains themselves. Those who are simply using creation as pawns in their much larger game. Those who are apathetic and may as well just help here and there because it might be interesting. And those who invest in creation because it is their child that will one day bring forth results they cannot find otherwise.
In all these examples, their godhood is cheapened by their human characteristics. Their fear, their paranoia, their lust, and most of all the simple lacking in their nature that creation is needed to fill.
God is not a term for “powerful being”. It is a term for all knowing, ever present, all powerful, and complete within itself. It is a term forever beyond human comprehension, as it is something beyond humans entirely. A being so great that He could create all things, not that He needed to, but that He wanted to. That He would sacrifice Himself for them. Not because they are necessary to His plan, but because He loved them. God did not gain anything from helping or creating creation. He did it for He loved us.
We have trouble as humans to comprehend the heart. The mind can be strengthened, the body can grow in power, but the heart? Can such a thing be changed? Aren’t we forever slaves to how we feel and our emotions? And as such, the heart is often the weakest link in most of our creation.
We strive to create sentience, yet fear losing control over it. But you can’t have sentience without free will, if you were to have complete control over sentience, you would create a torturous life where your creation questions their actions constantly yet cannot stop them. You can create sentience with naivety forcing them to trust you to know what is right or wrong, but even then they must still have the choice of to continue trusting you or to trust their own abilities to discover the difference between good and evil.
God does not fear the lack of control, for God is all powerful. Man did not overthrow God, Jesus lay His life down for man. God does not fear man’s sentience, though it pains Him to see them hurt themselves.
To understand God, you must not settle for all knowing and all powerful. Any fool could become a demon with such things. To understand God you must understand the heart behind God. Only then do you begin to comprehend Him
Have you ever wondered what it is that we find so attractive about fantasy? Is it the amazing worlds? The existence of magic? The concept that wearing capes in public is socially acceptable again? Maybe not… Well save for that last one… Capes DO need to come back into style… Like now…
If you think of it, most fantasies really aren’t that different from reality. Sure there are different races, creatures, and laws of reality, but the best fantasy stories out there are usually highly relatable to the psychological and political problems of modern day society. There’s corruption, cowardice, discrimination, naivety, greed, you name it.
So why fantasy then? What makes fantasy so different from a slice of life show? I think the answer simply comes down to the concept of having the power to change things.
In our modern world we have ourselves so convinced that life is hopeless. There are lairs upon lairs of legal structure that you would need a degree to know how to defend someone from corruption. You want to have an impact on your company? Well unfortunately you are merely a number in a machine to those in charge and most likely will never be able to talk to those who have the power to make decisions, let alone actually make an impact on them. You want to learn skills? Sorry, unless you can afford another degree and another 5-10 years of your life you are nothing more than a hobbiest. Want to discover stuff? Well really we already know everything there is to know, so anything else is just fantasy.
In a fantasy world most society is usually based off of medieval or greco Roman times. With the lack of proper communication and smaller community focused towns the impact your character is able to have is suddenly far greater. Yes there is still usually a government and politics, but the true fantasy is a world where one person can, by simply wanting to grow as a person and help those around them, become strong and change their city, country, or even world! Ideals leads to progress in a fantasy world as it shows up corruption and it can in the end prove that standing for your morals is far more powerful than focusing on gaining wealth or power in itself.
So why can’t we do this in our own world?
Okay, I am going to say it up front. It doesn’t matter how much you shout about something, repost stuff on facebook, or hold up signs outside of public locations in hopes of getting on the national news, You with your $5 and a tank full of gas is not going to overthrow ISIS, stop slavery, purge the world of discrimination, nor stop certain people from being voted into government… In fact you most likely will have the reverse effect you are aiming for as all you do is glamourize and spread word of ways to be evil and how fun it looks!
That being said though… That doesn’t mean we are helpless.
I always hate it when people blame readers, theatre people, movie watchers, or video game players of being “Escapist personalities who can’t handle reality” because in my opinion, a good story doesn’t take you away from reality, but inspires you that your own can still be better. That being said, the road is hard.
No, I mean, REALLY REALLY hard…. Like… If it involves feeling comfortable and making yourself feel powerful, I am sorry you are probably doing it wrong. The best heroes aren’t the ones who feel like they can do anything. They are the ones who take on anything in spite of feeling like they can do nothing because they would rather fail miserably trying than accept the reality that is being forced upon them.
What can we gain from this? Quite simply, if you want to help anyone in life, the first and greatest enemy you have to overcome is yourself. You have to WANT to make a change even though it seems hard, to keep fighting even when you feel like you accomplish nothing, to be willing to face enemies who seem far too big to be conquered, to stand strong even when it looks like you stand alone, to make your life about those around you NOT ABOUT YOURSELF!
If your “Changing the world” is about making the world better for yourself, or showing how you know better, or making people more like you… Just stop. It doesn’t work. Fighting for yourself is just far too small a motivation. I mean self esteem alone proves this!
Second thing I want to focus on then is that once you have conquered yourself, don’t be blinded by the big picture. I mean yes. I am a big picture thinker so of course I am going to say the big picture needs to be seen and understood. But don’t be so blinded by the big picture that you don’t move at all. I heard it put once, “If you can’t do it then don’t. Focus on what you can do!”
Truth is that a hero in a fantasy story rarely sets out to save the world, and if saving the world is the first thing he takes on he usually gets his butt handed to him. Frodo needed to focus on watching the ring first, then getting to Rivendell, then a bajillion and five other things before he tossed the ring into mount doom. Lucy had to first prove that Narnia was real to her siblings, then go to Tumnus’ house, then to the beavers’ then a ton of other things before stopping the White Witch and leading Narnia into its’ Golden Age.
What I’m trying to say is that you focus not on what’s wrong, but what you’re needing to do. Yes you may be broke. Yes you may be underemployed. Yes you may get horrible grades. Yes you may be single, poor, a bad cook, the world is at war, people are dying, your friends are being abused, there are countries that mistreat people for stupid reasons, people around you think that becoming violent and mean will stop violence and meanness, the corrupt seem to succeed, and the righteous or broken seem to suffer, etc…. There is a stinkin lot wrong with this world! But the thing is that if you focus on saving this world in one go, you’ll lose it. Focus on what you can do.
Be someone people can turn to, improve your own flaws so you can better help others, learn what you can, put yourself in other peoples’ shoes. If you can help support businesses that will affect others then great! If not financially maybe with advice, maybe with support, maybe with encouragement, maybe with marketing. Help people to help people!
Alone you are just one person…. But one person can touch many lives, who in turn can touch many lives, who in turn can touch many lives. Touch enough lives and you start to notice things changing.
Does it seem slow? Unglamorous? Hard work? Impossible? Yes… I have bad news for you though… Heroes only seem cool because we know how the story ends, and have devoted the time to get to know them on a personal level. Truth is most heroes spend most their time being the outcasts, the dreamers, the ones everyone says focus on worthless things and waste their lives away.
Luckily we are not alone… Because I don’t know how to live such an unrewarding life if you were alone. We have God, who is here to lead and to guide. He is rewarding when the world is not. He is wisdom where we lack perspective. He’s seen the ending when we aren’t even past the prologue. If you want to take on this task alone, I’ll say your chances are slim. But there is an ally who has your back. One who believes in you more than you do and can do amazing things through you by His hand. Trust, follow, be the hero, save the day