I am currently reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer for dyslexics. Meaning, the Watertown Free Library did not have a hard copy available, so I had to check out the book on tape. Even though this means something like 14 hours of book on tape, I’ve gotten pretty far along. Of course, most of my co workers have been mocking the giant noise cancellation headphones I’ve been sporting, but that’s ok. The book’s the thing.
Interesting as I find parts of this non-fiction book, one of the things that really caught my eye was the proposition of the Church of Latter-Day Saints as the most widespread religion originating in the United States. While I am unsure how to categorize various other religions, the idea itself is interesting. Mormonism as a very distinct, North American-centric religion. Obviously there are certain faith traditions that LDS builds upon, but the same could be said of the relationship of other faiths – Christianity building on Judaism, Islam building on parts of both.
Another point that is mentioned and I find interesting is the idea of appeal in the Book of Mormon. For those of you who are not familiar with this book (I wasn’t), it’s the story of a lost tribe of Israel and its travels and travails in North America. While there is no evidence that the story is true, it remains a powerful story. Despite my own Christian beliefs, I have a powerful sympathy for the stories of faith that fill out and shape our individual lives, and I mean no disrespect when I associate, in my mind, the stories of my own faith with that of the LDS or other stories, myths, legends, and fables. I find most of them fascinating.
One of the reasons Tolkien wrote his fantastical stories was to give space to English myth and legend that could be understood within a Christian ethic. He drew from Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Finnish, and Classical sources to create something new, different, and wondrous that could be a myth for his own time. Do we not, as Americans, also need our own myth?
Some would say that the wonder of past ages has been transmuted. Instead of looking backward to times of legends, miracles, and magic, we are looking forward to new technologies and advances of the human spirit. Some would say that science fiction fills the space once created by myth, or that comic book heroes and the graphic novel have rightfully supplanted older stories and forms, or that television and film have taken our old dramas to new levels. But perhaps I want something more encompassing than that. Perhaps I want something wider, something that everyone, more or less, can relate to. Is that impossible, within the diversity of our current lives? Are we so different, now, from who we used to be? I think those who continue to search for meaning would say no.