Monday, July 11, 2011


The musical score was appalling, the story woven by mediocre hands, but the fairy-tale conundrum was enticing and so I watched the better part of "Ladyhawke" on the computer last night. I hadn't seen the 1985 movie in a long time, but I am a sucker for fairy tales. Their daring, even when executed poorly, just draws me in.

That daring was expressed in the movie by the tale of a medieval couple who have been cursed by an evil archbishop. The curse: By day, he is a man and she is a hawk; by night, he is a wolf and she is a lady. At the rising of the sun, they see each other briefly in human form ... but can never touch. The adventure centers on breaking the curse.

My mother, who wrote a couple of good ones herself, once told me that fantasy is the hardest kind of writing there is. The reader must be convinced to believe in the unbelievable, must be drawn across some line of common sense and into a world where the heart embraces witches on broom sticks, talking animals, and powers that seem unreasonable become the norm. I am interested in the capacity to write or tell such things and I am fascinated by the willingness -- even longing -- to be drawn in.

On television the other night, there was some sort of reporting on the Vatican library. The story focused on the books and manuscripts which reached back and back in time. But along the way -- and this is what really got my attention -- there were film sorties ... panning through the ornate ceilings and walls and general surroundings of the Vatican. Without disrespect, it was hard not to wonder what sort of longing and agreement and demand had made this wonderland possible. And it truly was a wonder -- beautiful and soaring and ... well, whose heart created the will and willingness and no-doubt cruelty that gilded those walls. "Splendor" is an inadequate word.

Anyone can dismiss and dissect the splendor of another, pointing out the horrific inadequacies that exist in the conundrums others choose to bask in. But I don't think it is possible to deny the longing for splendor, in whatever form. Splendor -- the answer to unspoken questions, the healing of unseen wounds, the smiling of a tear-stained face ...

It takes courage to create a splendid world because however splendid, still the splendor requires endless repair, be it along the literal ramparts of a Vatican or the metaphorical ramparts of the mind. Endless patching, explaining, believing, buttressing. And those who say that all splendid fantasy must be brought to heel are, I'm afraid, living in a fantasy world. The heart will not sit still for such calculating observations.

I do marvel at those who have made the only move that makes much sense to me, who have entered the splendor of their creation, have loved it dearly, have explored its halls and patched its inevitable cracks. There is no way out but in ... into the Vaticans of the heart, into the sheer splendor of whatever sheer splendor sounds a siren song, into belief heaped on belief until the belief grows that it is all beyond belief, into the choirs and incense and gilded lilies. It is more convincing than chocolate, more beautiful than Beethoven ... it is enormous.


The heart swells. Convictions harmonize. Peace is almost, if not quite, assured.

And then, assuming an unflinching love and devotion, the conundrum reveals itself ... hawk and wolf and woman and man. The one who cried out so piteously for God now cries out more piteously still for the devil s/he has forsworn. In the sunrise, the night is lost ... ever touching, yet never able to embrace. And it is here that the gilded walls and supportive texts can no longer sing. The splendor that is not quite the splendor cries out for splendor. And -- with patience and courage and doubt -- there is embracing at last ... not this, not that, just embracing.

The best I can figure is -- embrace your splendor. Don't be a sissy: Really embrace it.

And try not to pester others with your splendor. Others have their own splendors to worry about.

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