Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Travelling Fantasy Blog Tour: Fantasy and What It Means to be Human

From the beginning of time (and perhaps before time began) the question has always existed: what does it mean to be human?

Humanity lives/exists within a prescribed setting which limits knowledge, age, joy, the body, sexuality, tribe, power, authority, dominion, physical movement, movement in time.

As a writer of Christian fiction I grew up with the story of Adam and Eve which is the first encounter most Christians have with the question of What does it mean to be human. In that story, man is created but not yet settled into a specific kind of being. (And in the Christian mythos, man will not find his true "self" and "being" until the end of time when time is no more.

Adam and Eve are beings who do not die. Yet they are not really immortal. They're in a strange nexus of creation where they are like god with (some) dominion and some knowledge. But they lack something, something God apparently thinks is not particularly important. They do not understand right and wrong.
They have consciousness but are without law or conscience. They have a blissful ignorance of evil and cannot judge/blame either themselves, others, God, or the world. For them, it is a world which is neither immoral or moral.

Despite God's desire that they remain outside of the realm of guilt or consciousness of evil, God did make them moral beings. Their one morality: the freedom to obey or not to obey. They are aware of one thing that they lack: they do not fully understand the ramifications of evil: disease, death, cruelty, hunger, toil, meaninglessness, and the thousand ills flesh is heir to. This knowledge of death is what separates them from God, what makes them less than God.

But  third agency enters the picture and challenges them to be like God. The agency tempts them with knowledge of evil, law, conscience, guilt. The humans take a wager upon themselves. It is possible that humans can understand evil and not fall into guilt.  Their first response to eyes opened to evil: shame. Shme about what? Shame in their comparison to  perfect God. Thus humanity falls from its own perfection as it aimed for God's perfection.

There is so much in this story, myth, history. And all fantasy stories echo it. All these elements are found in fantasy: Humans who wish to put side emotions and become, robots who wish to be humans, humans locked way from Eden, humans betrayed by a God, humans betraying their gods, humans casting off their gods, intrusive deceiving godlike figures, humans battling death, humans defying death, humans conquering time, humans failing a task, humans striving, humans ignorant of evil, humans being dominated by the world, humans dominating the world. All the echoes are found in fantasy stories and will apparently continue until the end of time.

Other discussions on fantasy and what it means to be human can be found here


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