Shadows and Symbols
by Ted Tschopp
“It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought — almost unwilling, for I had looked at the column on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions — the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. I had already been waist deep in Romanticism, and likely enough, at any moment, to flounder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity.” — C.S. Lewis Preface to George MacDonald: an Anthology
Many people who get to know me soon find out that I’m a lover of things that are fantastic. I was first introduced to the worlds of the imagination when my mother use to read to me the books that had won Newbery awards. I can still remember Island of the Blue Dolphins, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, and A Wrinkle in Time. In these she would sprinkled Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit. It should be no wonder that I adore stories of strange beasts and noble kings. If I ever met a talking rodent my first thought would not be to question my sanity, but to question my new friend if he had ever heard of Reepicheep.
As I have grown older I have gravitated towards individuals who also have a love for these things. In some of these people, instead of finding that same “childish” love of the new I find they resonate with the perversity and darkness that the author mentions above. I had never thought of the descent into perversity and darkness as a process that started with the love of Romanticism. But I can’t help shake statements above. It starts to explain the reason why so many fellow fanboy and girls struggle with some very dark and deviant behaviours.
Over the years, I have read and watched some very dark and strange things in the hope of reconnecting with the feelings I got when I first heard that there was a hobbit who lived in a hole in the ground. After a while I realized the foolishness in exploring more adult and darker themed fictions which were said to match my age or demographic. I realized that I was chasing shadows. I would stare at the shapes and marvel how they twisted. I would revel in the way they could make me shudder.
I look back on those days in amazement and wonder. How could I be so chilish, when I was thinking I was so adult. It wasn’t the dark shadows that were so fascinating. It wasn’t their twisting and writhing that was so hypnotizing. It’s not the shadows that are so finely detailed, its the symbols and shapes that cast the shadows that hold the intricacies. It’s not that the shadows slither, it’s an illusion caused by the shapes and symbols as they bow down and worship the light. As life moves towards its conculsion, I’m finding that what is really facinating is the light who is the Father of the lights, with whom there is no variation, or shadow of turning.