Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fly Away

When I was a kid I wanted to fly. I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in that desire. I think everybody has a deep-seated longing for the freedom of the birds, the freedom to simply lift off, float, ascend, sail away. From the Greek myth of Icarus to Leonardo's sketches of flying machines, human beings have never been completely content as muddy-shoed bipeds.

TODAY'S QUESTION: What's up with that?

Just imagine this scenario: Someone clearly exhibiting supernatural powers walks up to you and offers you the chance to either pay off your car, your mortgage, and get that new washer/dryer combo in the cool new colors for the basement, or.... you can fly... which would you choose?

When I first saw Superman in 1978, I wanted to fly like crazy. When I saw E.T. and watched Elliot and his alien friend cruise over the heads of those mean grown ups on his dirt-bike, my eyes were like saucers. I dreamt about flying across the moon on my sweet Huffy Pro-Thunder BMX Bandit with the star rims for weeks!

Where am I going with this one? Excellent question!
I'm not sure yet....

I'd like to leave the cap off on this one for awhile; open, like the sky itself. Part of me doesn't want to bring closure to these dreams! Adults are good at putting lids on things, limitations, caps and ceilings. Being realistic and stuff.... Boo hiss! Wonder leaves it wide open.

Remember C.S. Lewis's quote about desire. If there's a longing in the heart, there must be a locus in the world for it (or perhaps Another World yet to come). Jesus ascended into Heaven, Mary was assumed body and soul. Am I that crazy in my own longing for flight? There are stories of saints levitating... sailing up to the rafters of a Church after receiving Communion, or even hearing the names of Jesus and Mary! In the immortal words of my niece Ella.... "What 'da!?"

Why is our culture filled at the moment with so many movies about super heroes or supernatural beings that have amazing powers? We give them the gifts we wish we had. From Neo to the X-Men, Superman to Ironman. The animals don't dream like this! Why are we not satisfied?

QUICK ANSWER: The animals are home here, we are not. In a certain sense, it's our home away from home. More accurately, we're exiled. The stuff of eternity is in us, and earth can't contain it.

Now I'm not saying we should try and fly, or levitate for that matter. St. Teresa of Avila, one of the Church's greatest "superheroines" (aka mystics), once hinted that she would rather have one normal experience to a thousand mystical experiences any day. She thought it too distracting for others I suppose, and the gift of her mystical experiences became a burden when people came for the show rather than for Jesus. That's humility!

And the flight of St. Joseph of Cupertino? Where did that power come from? LOVE. It comes unbidden, it fills us up like helium. Maybe I was trying too hard as a kid. Flight is not something we can master or muster at our own bidding. It's a natural byproduct of Love. Love is the fuel.

"Love lifts us up where we belong, where the eagles fly on a mountain high..."

I'll trail off with a rather lengthy word from the MAN.... Clive Staples:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves — that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can't. They tell us that "beauty born of murmuring sound" will pass into human face; but it won't. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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