Humans are always saying they want peace. “If only I could get some peace!” We are not only always fighting in wars, we are fighting against wars, fighting as best we can “the war to end all wars.”
And yet I notice that one thing we do with our peace is watch movies about war, stress, and damaged relationships. There is something in us that craves the adrenaline rush we get when we fight for something that matters.
So do we want war or don't we? – And when I say war, I mean all war – the kind with guns, words, paperwork, you name it.
We certainly don't want people to die or relationships to be broken or mysteries to need solving. That's why when Sherlock Holmes exclaims, in one of his tales, the essence of, “A homicide! Oh goody!” we are taken aback by his lack of compassion and empathy. We call him a sociopath. But we also laugh. Possibly we laugh because we recognize in Sherlock the irony of our own conflicting desires.
So I have a theory on this.
I've noticed a phenomena throughout my life which I have just started to catalog. I've long felt drawn to stories which include a nucleus of individuals rallying around a specific cause or shared passion. I have dubbed it Community, but with added meaning to the common word. I don't mean merely “society” or “a gang.” I mean a group of like-minded people with a mission, a cause, something to fight for, some shared, important passion. I will give you my current list of Communities I've come across. I'm sure you could list some of your own.
In Real Life:
1. The Inklings
2. The inner nucleus of the Harry Potter fandom (especially during their Wizard Rock road trip)
3. The abolitionists who rallied around William Wilburforce in his fight to abolish the slave trade
4. The L'Abri Community
5. The Early Church in Acts
6. The Fellowship of the Ring
7. The Dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo in The Hobbit
8. The DA in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
9. The Order of the Phoenix
10. The group in Sue Thomas FBEye
There are a few commonalities I notice.
1. Between roughly 4 and 10 people who are regulars in the group, with others who are less committed or in-and-out.
2. They are fighting actively for something or very passionate about a topic or idea they feel is important.
3. They can't last forever; they aren't family. People come in and out or change and that changes the group. They tend to exist for a certain purpose and for a certain span of time. But the time is usually an intense and significant span of time.
4. They are not merely forced to come together - they choose to come together because they feel strongly about the issue at hand.
I believe that each of us is searching for that community in our own lives. But just having a community is not enough. Being in these communities is not the same as “getting involved in your community” or joining a program or going to the community center. It's not even the same thing as having friends over, even lots of friends. Not necessarily. I believe we are uniquely alive when we are working together toward something. Not just being together but fighting together.
In the best adventure stories there is always a romance, and in the best romances there is always an adventure. People get to know each other on adventures. They get to see you in the stressful moments, the devastating ones, the exhilarating ones. Alternately, these kinds of adventures can bring together the most unlikely of people. “A common enemy unites even the strongest of foes.”
I began talking about how we want peace but also adventure. I bring up community because I think that is intractably caught up in what we mean by adventure. I think most of us want shared adventure or no adventure. I don't think any of us want quite “peace” in our relationships either. People describe that as boring. Relationships themselves should be an adventure, and with that comes a little bit of fear, excitement, and danger.
So do we really wish for a perfect world with nothing to solve, nothing to protect, nothing to fight?
Yes, of course. And no, certainly not.
Which brings me to my second point.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is unique among books because it has no plot. The filmmakers knew it – that's why they introduced this irritating plotline about magic swords and smoke. And it didn't work. Because Lewis was doing something unique, and it had a magic all of it's own.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader works because it feels like real life – a series of small adventures that add up to something meaningful inside us but don't really add up to a cinematic climax of events. The whole trip is about finding out more about themselves and each other. Eustace becomes a dragon and learns how proud and selfish he was. Lucy learns about herself when she opens the magician's book. Caspian learns how much he wants to see Aslan's country but shows strength of character by deciding to stay back. In the end, the characters meet Aslan and learn more about his ways and his country. This is how real people do life. We learn about each other, and then we learn about God.
I think we've started to think that the only adventures that count are those that change the world. “Man saves world” is very different from “human who finds out something new about himself.” But both are valid adventures. In fact, I'd argue that a lot of superhero movies lack depth because of just this... the real adventure is always in community and always reveals something new about yourself or about the human race. That's why the “heart” of a movie will always be something like “family” or “finding yourself” or “how love is what fulfills you.”
I think the real adventure cannot happen without community because the real adventure is love. Otherwise adventure is a meaningless war against war. But I would also argue that love cannot happen without adventure of some kind. It's called boring.
And now to my final point.
If we must have adventure to be human... Will there be adventure in heaven?
I think our perfect utopia, heaven, will be full of the best kinds of adventure. The fun kind, the kind we sometimes forget about because we're so caught up in the crazy kind. When we wish for peace, I think what we're really wishing for is this kind of adventure.