Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Monster Under the Bed

Stephen King, in the forward to 1976's Night Shift, writes the following:
At night, when I go to  bed I still am at pains to be sure that my legs are under the blankets after the lights go out. I'm not a child anymore but...I don't like to sleep with one leg sticking out. Because if a cool hand ever reached out from under the bed and grasped my ankle, I might scream. Yes, I might scream to wake the dead. That sort of thing doesn't happen, of course, and we all know that. In the stories[...]The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn't real. I know that, and I also know that if I'm careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle. 
As an unabashed aficionado of horror and fantasy, I know something of King's concerns: I, too, make sure my feet are covered each night by a blanket. I still hold my breath as I drive past cemeteries. I always make escape routes from buildings in the case of zombie attack. I often daydream of what it would be like to meet extraterrestrials.

A very thin veil separates "reality" from "fantasy," at least in my imagination. Just as the sun's setting threatens to release upon the world a host of vampires and nefarious creatures, so also does morning's light dispel them, chasing them back to their holes where they bide their time until they return again. Even banal train rides become mini-adventures: the kid listening to his iPod is actually a spy, the old woman whose slip is showing is a werewolf.

In short, there's always more to reality than what meets the eye.

This is why, I guess, I like theology so much. It claims that beneath the quantifiable data of our daily lives, there is a quite real and often hidden dimension to reality. One needs to be given "eyes to see" and "ears to hear" what roils beneath the surface. Yet to catch a glimpse of reality's hidden depths - like catching a glimpse of Yeti or find a treasure map - bears the potential of opening one up to making one's entire life an adventure of discovery.

Sometimes, I think people think of theology as adding another layer upon creation. For some, it's a delicious layer of sweet buttercream frosting; for others, its a toxic sludge used to oppress others. For me, however, it's not about adding something so much as it is exposing. Theology, as a discipline, is less about accruing facts than it is about training one's eyes, and one's heart, to see rightly, to know the infinite depth of what can easily seem superficial.

I share this, not in any spirit of mounting an apologia for theological reflection, but as a way of making myself write something this morning. Writing, like exercise, needs disicpline and diligence. As I wrote yesterday, the words haven't come as easily as they once I thought I'd prime the pump a bit by writing on something that's been on my mind lately.

I do keep a rosary in my pocket and a crucifix on my bedside table. I also have Paddington bear on my shelf, an ever vigilant sentinel to keep watch as I sleep. And I, perhaps like Stephen King, insist on making sure the edges of my sheets are firmly tucked into the mattress: if the ghoul under the bed wants to catch me, I might as well make him work to get my foot. 

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