As is often the case with good vacations, I’ve been trying to find creative ways to hold onto the joy and peace I found while exploring Portland, Oregon and the area around the city. Since I am a bit of a shutter bug, much of my holding on has been through pictures. As I have shared my pictures on social media, some of my friends have commented that forests I visited look like something out of a fantasy novel. When gazing at towering redwoods, mystic waterfalls, and inviting trails, fantasy and reality easily blend as Washington Park meets Lord of the Rings.
This commingling of fantasy and reality also sparked my creative side. I have long desired to write a book on the Catholic perspective on care for creation. Of the many thought experiments I’ve played with, one of them has been to write some type of fantasy story that would include a sacramental view of creation. For fun, I have taken some of my favorite vacation pictures and altered them to be more like pictures in a children’s storybook. Though the original images are more beautiful than the altered images, it wasn’t until I transformed nature’s art into human art that my creativity was sparked to explore fictional narratives and develop characters to traverse these mystic lands.
As I brought my creativity to prayer, it dawned on me that the seeds of good fantasy stories are not necessarily found when we escape reality. Rather, it is often through the engagement of the natural world that the heroic narratives of good fantasy emerge. That being said, even though good fantasy can be firmly rooted in reality, it is through the creation of “another world” that the narratives take hold and grab our attention in a way that transcends the world we live in. When putting on my philosopher’s hat to explore this paradox, it begs the question: Which is more real – reality or fantasy?
Now, before we delve into an abstract philosophy of literature, we need to ask another question: Would we be able to dream in a way that evokes great fantasy novels if we didn’t have a world that is ripe with beauty and mystery to inspire these stories? One way to look at this is through applying my images of west coast woodlands to the reality of deforestation.
Let’s say that the places I have presented above are destroyed someday through deforestation. When left with only images and memories of the redwoods, could we grasp their beauty in their totality? Could we take that inspiration and develop fictional stories that may not only possess the natural beauty of the redwoods, but provide a literary backdrop to inspire great adventures of the mind that may lead to real-life adventures? Put another way, if we don’t care for creation and lose the natural beauty of our world, do we also lose the necessary means to inspire greatness, creativity, and adventure in the human heart or do our dreams simply fade into a blank page?
These are preliminary thoughts that need reflection and refinement. I also need to remember that they are born from the afterglow of a good vacation. Nevertheless, I would like to hear from you, the readers of The Catholic Astronomer, to share your thoughts on this question: What is the relationship between fantasy and reality? Often, our world tries to separate these two human experiences. Might it be that both are necessary to delve deeper into what it means to truly be human?
Happy Monday everyone and I look forward to your thoughts!