All boys deep down yearn for an adventure. They yearn to see beneath the thin veneer of this world, and glimpse a grander narrative–a narrative in which they play a greater role. They dream of a story wherein they take part in an epic tale where good and evil battle one another–where there is great victory, yet the fear of great defeat; where small efforts move the great forces of this world toward a good end. So often, we adults forget about the stage upon which all of us are playing a role–a role in a story that came before us, was the foundation of this world, and to which all journeys and stories are leading.
We all yearn to see this world–this stage of action where our lives have eternal resonance. We adults, in the midst of the mundane affairs of daily life, forget about the dreams of our youth, when we yearned for deeper meaning, of journeys taken, where our mettle was tested. In the history of this land, there have been great stories, and great characters. And in our imaginations there are worlds to discover; there are characters grander than life, but stories seem to fade as we grow old. And for some children, the stories have never been, for they have been hidden from them, or they have not been given the chance to enter into the world of the imagination, and not just an imagination freely floating without roots, but a place where the “echoes roll from soul to soul”, a land full of color and significance. Alfred Lord Tennyson once painted a vivid picture of this story of ours crying out “the splendor falls on castle walls, on snowy summits old in story.” This splendor, or echo of adventure and meaning, resonates in the heart of every human person, and yet there are forces in this world that want to stifle the imagination; places where wonder is snuffed out, sputtering in a world of shiftless insignificance.
What are we doing to create landscapes of action and meaning for our young, where they can taste the grandeur of what is noble, of what is good, true, and beautiful? Is it found in the stifling classrooms of standardizes factory school systems, where our sons never learn true brotherhood? Is it found in the digital basement caves of modern homes bereft of wind blowing through the forests and explorations along riversides? Is it found in the worksheets, tests, and colleges that our educrats deem as the way to judge and form intelligence, and analytical thought? No! Where are the storytellers who once told us who we are, and what story we are part of? Where are the stages not strutted upon by the patchwork post-modern playwrights who know no end, who know not the story of stories? What has happened to the voices of the past who spoke to us of what it means to be human? Have we lost the ears that hear and the eyes that see?
It is time for places where wonder is reawakened and the hearts of brave lads alive to the world see what it means to be men! It is time to show them the true meaning of adventure: a call that beckons them to walk out of the soft suburban lifestyles of mediocrity which stifle their daring and seek noble lives of generosity and courage. They must take daring journeys of awakening, but not out of mere bravado.
They must be rooted and guided in stories that show them the true meaning of this pilgrimage we call life. C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien heard this call, and wrote stories to awaken a generation. They spoke of Aslan on the move, and the small hands of middle earth that move the world. They realized that walking out of one’s door is an adventure, and that each day the journey begins anew, when we see through the thin veil which hides the great battle of heaven and hell from our eyes, the veil which tries to cast the murkiness of the mundane and ordinary over our lives, so that we forget who we are–not only sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, but children of God, who are all on the great pilgrimage, bound for Glory, where the flights of our imagination can only catch inklings as we strut and fret upon this land.
On this journey, where imagination and story inspire and give sight, there is a light which preempts heaven, and helps us see the glory of the hereafter in the here and now—where knights, pirates, elves, demons, angels, animals, and men all take part in the great epic narrative of this story called Life.
Today, Riverside affirms the power of story, the imagination, and grace to awaken the hearts of many young boys, and girls. When the world grows dark, we need the stories of light again. And how restless are we until the world is ablaze with the true story of Light and Life. God bless all those storytellers and poets who cry out from the depths, reminding us all of the need to remember who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. May it be so! .