How to Have Intelligent Children

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Fables and Facts

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What will the modern world do if it finds (as very likely it will) that the wildest fables have had a basis in fact; that there are creatures of the borderland, that there are oddities on the fringe of fixed laws, that there are things so unnatural as easily to be called preternatural? I do not know what the modern world will do about these things; I only know what I hope. I hope the modern world will be as sane about these things as the medieval world was about them. Because I believe that an ogre can have two heads, that is no reason why I should lose the only head that I have.

–G. K. Chesterton

I was an atheist until I read “The Lord of the Rings”

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From the time that I could think rationally on the subject, I did not believe in God…

What made me consider God’s existence a real possibility? The Lord of the Rings. I was a young teenager when I first read the Tolkien tomes, and it immediately captivated me. The fantasy world of Middle-Earth oozes life and profundity. The cultures of the various peoples are organic, rooted in tradition while maintaining a fresh, living energy. Mountains and forests have personalities, and the relationship between people and earth is marked by stewardship and intimacy. Creation knowing creation. Tolkien describes these things with beautiful prose that reads like its half poetry and half medieval history. Everything seems “deep” in The Lord of the Rings. The combination of character archetypes and assertive “lifeness” in the novel touches on an element of fundamental humanity. Every Lord of the Rings fan knows exactly what I’m talking about.

In my narrow confines of scientism, I had no way of processing what made Tolkien’s masterpiece so profound. How could a made-up fantasy world reveal anything about the “truth”? But I knew it did, and this changed my way of thinking. Are good and evil merely social constructions, or are they real on a deeper level? Why am I relating to ridiculous things like talking trees and corrupted wraiths? Why was I so captivated by this story that made fighting evil against all odds so profound? Why did it instill in me a longing for an adventure of the arduous good? And how does the story make sacrifice so appealing? The Lord of the Rings showed me a world where things seemed more “real” than the world I lived in. Not in a literal way, obviously; in a metaphorical, beyond-the-surface way. The beautiful struggle and self-sacrificial glory permeating The Lord of the Rings struck a chord in my soul and filled me with longing that I couldn’t easily dismiss.

–by Fredric Heidemann

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