In a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Why Epics Leave Us Satisfied and Longing

photo-1444703686981-a3abbc4d4fe3This year, a movie released in theaters that filled some longtime fans with a nostalgia and excitement they have not experienced in some amount of time. They became captivated (again) with the opposing Jedi and Sith orders, hoping to see the side to which their allegiances lie burst forth in victory. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens released, people moved to their sides and planted themselves firmly. Many viewers were enraptured by this return to childhood memories (as many in this camp would not consider the prequels to be Star Wars movies in any form, although that’s another topic entirely); some were less than thrilled.

However, one word that cannot be used to describe the vast majority of viewers is that of “neutral.” This film either rekindled fond memories of childhood fantasies or reaffirmed a distaste for George Lucas’s fictional universe. One common denominator does in fact exist between both seemingly mutually exclusive groups. Even though fans of Star Wars experienced great delight in seeing this series continued (and continued well), I feel that they would have to admit some sort of feeling (on varying levels, contingent on the degree of fanaticism the fan attains) of dissatisfaction.

Dissatisfaction is our human method of expressing longing – we long for that which we do not have, and are thus dissatisfied. I would make the assertion that the source of our longings is paradoxically the same source as that of our satisfaction. The reason we find the narratives of such epics so compelling (and yet unsatisfying) is that we are subconsciously longing for the true epic narrative that these only shadow. The reason they are compelling to us is because the narrative of our universe follows a similar (albeit infinitely more fulfilling) trajectory, and the reason they are so unsatisfying is that they do not and cannot satisfy our ultimate longing. This longing can only be met in the ultimate narrative that God Himself created.

“The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Since orthodox Christians affirm the doctrine of general revelation (that God reveals generally to all people his existence through His creation), we can see that all that God has created is created with the intent to bring glory to Him, and to bring us to an awareness of Him. However, as Romans 1 indicates, this is not sufficient to bring us to saving knowledge of Him.

Our purpose in being created was to become worshippers of God, and any deviation from this end must necessarily leave us in longing. This is what one of the primary ends of creation is – to nurture in us a longing for God (even in those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” [Rom. 1:18] there is a longing created, although they seek to supplant it with other temporal pleasures). One way in which we come to a deeper longing is through myths, legends, and epics. J.R.R. Tolkien aptly explains why:

We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they                               contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal                          truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming “sub-                               creator” and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he                              knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however                             shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic “progress” leads only to a                              yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.

While I do not necessarily believe that myths are the greatest natural supplement to our eternal longings, I do believe there are a few parallels between the mythical narratives and God’s ultimate redemption narrative that lead us to desire God more deeply. Just as in experiencing Epics we experience an acute awareness that something is wrong within the world of the narrative, so also do we who are in Christ reach an awareness that there is something wrong (both outside of ourselves and within ourselves).

Were there not within us an acute sense of our prior normality, there would be no means through which to understand our own present corruptions. Apart from general revelation, we would have no basis for comparison, and would thus be rendered incapable of reaching a determination regarding the state of our wickedness. Therefore, while general revelation is futile without special revelation, this does not minimize the necessity of general revelation; rather, it enhances it.

Just as our physical bodies hunger and thirst for sustenance, so also do our spiritual bodies hunger and thirst for that which shall enable us to ultimately satiate our longings (John 6:35). This does not necessarily indicate that we will never eat or drink again (or any other capacity we have that leads to desire, for that matter); rather, it indicates that the satisfaction we will find in God will be utterly sufficient.

All that we have desired in our lives will ultimately and finally reach the end which they have always longed to reach. We may experience satisfaction in media and literature – and understandably so, considering good art glorifies God and brings us pleasure – but ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the ultimate narrative God has and is writing. What a joy it is that the author of our souls is simultaneously the author of all of creation and redemption.

Micah Russell is a senior at Blue Mountain College in northeastern Mississippi. He is pursuing degrees in Biology and Christian Ministry. Micah is a member at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He enjoys reading good books, drinking good tea and coffee, and playing frisbee and chess. You can follow him on Twitter @micahclay.