04 December 2013

Eucatastrophic

This morning I received a forwarded email about a family friend. His brother was shot and killed last night by his ex-wife. They have three children who are not adults. It hit me a fist to the chest.



I don't know the family friend in question very well. He's a really terrific guy and has been there to help the family through a number of issues we've dealt with over the years, but I see him maybe once or twice a year. And, in the end, he's a friend of my family, not a good, personal friend. I have never met his brother. The simple tragedy of knowing someone, even a few steps removed, who was brutally murdered this way and, in dying, left three young children to sort out the mess is completely horrifying.

I feel as though this was the toothpick stabbed through a sandwich of grief that has been constructed over the last few months. Sandyhook, the middle school shooting here in Atlanta, family strains, more gun violence here in Atlanta, the explosion in Texas, the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shootings. And those are just the ones that come immediately to mind. I cannot recall if there was ever such a steady stream of escalated violence in the media. There are always murders, always tragedies, but it seemed to me that there was a wave of these events on a much greater scale than the normal, persistent, ankle-deep pool of misery we see in human life.

For the first time since 9/11 these things are affecting me on an emotional level.

They make me feel angry and impotent, upset and tired. I want to curl up in a hole somewhere and drink and escape into books. They make me want God to burn this place down. I don't want my daughter to live in a world like this.

And then I remember the star above the reek of Mordor. I remember the eucatastrophe:

"I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary 'truth' on the second plane (....) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love."
― Letter 89, J.R.R. Tolkien

Without the Cross this world deserves death by the sword. But now "deserves" has little to do with it. All the pain and agitation I feel is resolved and absolved because it is no longer my responsibility. There is a King who is there to handle things. As I think on this, it begins to rain. I step outside my building and observe. It washes away the crud, the grief, cleansing and refreshing. The rain is His reign and it is complete. Now I am free to help in that reign.

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