Coffee Thoughts: My first religious experience

I spent a couple hours this morning reading the news, which was hard. Both sides are killing, one side by flashing sword and the other by smooth-talking empathetic apathy, faceless mask or compassionate speaker in the suit. And both sides mean well, and the zombie virus takes down both. And there are brave medics running to their aid, but both sides shoot them first, and vials of the only antidote are shattered and spill into the ground. OK, that sounded like jibberish. I’ll explain more later.

My first religious experience happened to me around age 7 or so. It was in this love poem. Mind you, I didn’t get romance when I was 7, so I saw something deeper in it.

The main character, Beren, is the sole survivor of a massive war. The people have all been killed in gruesome ways. The landscape is left barren and desolate. It’s a grey empty world, smoking ashes dead leaves. And then he wanders into an enclave of the elves, where there is life again, and spring.

As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinúviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O’er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.

If I’d read it now as an adult for the first time, I think I would have written it off as just a love story. But at 7 years old, this poem opened the sky to me. The point is about believing in life, even after so much death. To throw yourself into the irrational wonder at the glory within a person and the stars, despite everything to the contrary.

I was in a little kid depression when I was 7, for reasons I won’t explain here. I couldn’t have said it then, but I really believed, at the back of my quiet seven year old mind, that the devil was bigger than God.  I think most people nowadays still think that. Screaming jihadists and smooth-talking talking heads. But it’s not true. Nothing is defiled beyond redemption.

We are all immortal, and the trembling starlight of the skies is here, all around us, if we could but see it.


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