When I was kid I spent a lot of time wandering the woods around my house. I would make up stories about who and where I was, usually involving some kind of epic fantasy adventure. I used to imagine I was looking for a magical secret world that could be found through a hidden door on one certain tree. I loved the idea that there could be an underground world that only I knew about.
Maybe that is why I have always been fascinated by creation myths. They are the original fantasy stories. Today we love to share fiction in books, on stage, on TV, and on the big screen. It is proof of our constant desire to not only empathize with each other, but to imagine things that aren’t even possible. And we’re great at it. We always have been. No matter where you stand on the god issue, you cannot deny that those who came before us made up some pretty tall tales about creation. I mean, they can’t all be true…. right?
Many creation stories involve some kind of birth. Deciding that the earth’s beginnings were the result of a father, mother, or both seems like a natural conclusion. Some believed we hatched from an egg. There are a variety of creation theories, but my personal favorites are the emergence myths. I am drawn to the idea that we come from a previous world that acted as a womb, and that we are reborn into different worlds over time. I especially like the idea that there are secret portals between worlds that can be discovered.
It makes a compelling backdrop for a book or a movie, but I do not believe it as a reality I am currently experiencing. Maybe I lack a crucial component to imagination. As a kid I never believed there was a tree that would lead me to a secret world. I never even had an imaginary friend. But I knew kids who could have been convinced of both the reality of that tree and any imaginary guide I may have introduced them to. I bet their adventures were ten times more exciting than mine.
I wonder if I had been one of those kids if I would now embrace a religion that believes in some form of emergence story. Maybe not. I’m looking for a little magic, and I’m not talking about water into wine. I want the real possibility of Alice in Wonderland on my own terms. But that isn’t possible. Only god creates the terms…. unless we were created with the power to live out whatever reality we want. In which case none of it matters. Because if no one else is sharing the same reality, then what is the point?
That’s the kind of thinking that ruined heaven for me.
Maybe I like the idea of magic, but liking it isn’t enough to make it real. It is for some. And believing in the thing you like to believe seems way more satisfying than believing in a myth because it is the only thing you have known. With so many options out there, I guess you have to narrow it down somehow. I prefer to narrow things down by what feels true. That preference is very subjective, and realizing that has kept me from staying up nights wondering what is wrong with people.
If I were a clean slate with a selection of god stories before me, I’d like to think I would at least pick one that favored women and spent very little time asking me to repent. I would find of plenty options, too. But being who I am I would probably look around at the overwhelming number of different answers to the same question and choose nothing at all.
And I would absolutely show up again every single day…. just to browse.