Friday, January 4, 2019

Escapism

From Joseph Pearce, "Chesterton, Tolkien and Lewis in Elfland," about the influence of Chesterton's “The Ethics of Elfland,” the fourth chapter of Orthodoxy:
.... The materialist, wrote Chesterton, “like the madman, is in prison” and, what was worse, he was seemingly consoled by the fact that the prison, i.e. the material universe, was very large:
It was like telling the prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.
Evidently inspired by this metaphor of materialism as a prison, Tolkien resurrected it in his own essay “On Fairy Stories” in which he spoke of “Escape” as “one of the main function of fairy-stories”: “Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

We desire something beyond the prison of time and space because our true home is to be found beyond the prison walls, and the reason that the greatest truths are told in stories is because history itself is a story told by the greatest of all Story-Tellers. History is His Story. As Chesterton put it, “this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller…. I felt in my bones; first, that this world does not explain itself…. Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art….”