Sunday, July 6, 2008

A First Look at Recovery

J.R.R.Tolkien, in his justifiably famous essay "On Fairy Stories", uses the term Recovery. It is used to describe the effect of how Fairy stories - about other worlds and the fantastic - enable us to see our own "real" world in a clearer way. I like this term because it is absolutely what happens to me when I read fantasy literature - I start to think about things in a different way, envision the world anew.

But fantasy is not the only medium that does this. Science Fiction is, in a sense, a "recovery" of our view of the future. We see new possibilities. An even more interesting idea to me is that recovery can happen when we learn things - science, history, culture and politics opening up our eyes and minds to how the world works and to what may actually be possible.

An example: I tend to trace my recovery of the wonders of nature back to a snowstorm that hit one afternoon. I had a day off from work and was visiting my Mom that day - a cold sunny morning turned quickly to a storm. It left a few inches of snow in a very short time. However, in an hour or two, the sun was back out, but the ground was covered. I noticed that birds, immediately after the storm passed over, went flying back and forth in search of food. And I noticed, for the first time in a long time, the variety of different birds that were actually around. It had been a long time since I had looked so closely at what was around me, but that afternoon I spotted at least six different species - sparrows, starlings, crows, pigeons (rock doves for you birders!), mourning doves and a blue jay - looking for some food to get through the day. There may have been a gull sighted also.

My wonder at nature - the recovery of the reality of my life and what surrounded it - took place in that crazy storm. It led me to do a little birdwatching and to realize that there are a lot of different birds flying around, if only we take the time to notice them. I now see all kinds of birds just on my daily commute.

Recovery is probably a word we would associate more with medical rehabilitation today, but I really like it for use in the sense of our renewed vision. Seeing things in a new light is the only way we can get out of the ruts of our daily lives and perhaps make changes to what life actually is. We may even make changes that change the world. This is what looking beyond the veil means.

In future posts, I will be looking into recovery in more detail - going back and re-reading Tolkien's essay and then writing a few different ideas down here. The stories we tell - from fantasy to "real-life" stories of culture, history and science - all go to the heart of recovery, using story to change the way we perceive the world. If some stories are made up and others simply revealing facts we never knew, what's the difference? For our purposes, we are learning new things in either case. I like to look at History and Politics as a mirror image of Literature and Film.

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