Monday, September 11, 2023

More Than Fiction

I just finished reading a humorous and insightful novel, the first in a fantasy series entitled “Lost on a Page” by David Sharp. It is told from the perspective of fictional characters within novels of various genres (mystery, science fiction, romance, fantasy) who discover that they are not real. They find out they are just imaginary figures in books being written by human authors.

In discovering they are not real, something changes. It says, “Discovering they are fictional characters somehow gave them wills of their own.” They begin to make decisions for themselves apart from the book plots. Characters from various books band together to find “The World Where the Books Are Written.”

This is not an entirely new concept, even though this book takes the idea in new directions. There was a book a few years ago by John Scalzi entitled “Red Shirts,” about ensigns on a starship in a science fiction television show. One day they realize that while on “away missions” it is always those with the red shirts who die. Never those in the leading roles. This was modeled after the real TV series Star Trek. The audiobook is appropriately narrated by Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: the Next Generation.

The 2006 movie “Stranger than Fiction” has a similar premise. Will Ferrell plays an IRS auditor named Harold Crick, whose life is narrated by a voice that only he can hear. He discovers that he is the protagonist in an author's (Emma Thompson) latest work. With the help of a professor (Dustin Hoffman) they set out to find the author and get her to change her/his story.  

These works of fiction are not as fictional as they seem. Spiritual inquiry reveals we are not who we think we are. We are not the characters we play. If someone asks, “Who are you?” we tend to respond with answers from our script:  name, age, gender, family relationships, occupation, nationality, religion, political affiliation, and a host of other labels that we have adopted other the years.

Spiritual self-enquiry reveals that we are none of these things. We could change any or all of these, and we would still be us. These are simply roles we play in the drama of life. Shakespeare famously penned, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts….” We mistake ourselves for the masks we wear. We get so “into character” that we forget what we really are.

When we wake up from our fictional lives, we get a glimpse of True Life, the Nonfictional Self behind the dramatis personae, who breathes life into us and sets the parameters of our temporary existence.  The true reality is the Realm of the Author. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God.

When we wake up, the illusion of our former selves dissipates, and we see what we always were. As the apostle Paul exclaimed, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!” These bodies are simply costumes for the Spirit. The apostle speaks of the Spirit indwelling the tabernacles of human bodies. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Our lives are open books, written by the Author of life, the One who speaks this cosmic drama into existence. When we take off the masks we wear, we are free. We discover who and what we really are. Under the masks we see our real face, and we recognize it as the face of God. This is what it means to be made in the image of God. As the apostle wrote: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 

1 comment:

ernest boyer said...

Love it! This is great, insightful and entertaining.