Isaac, son of promise, whose name meant laughter, didn’t do very much. His main contribution: “Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham; for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham,” (Gen 26:18).
Redigging ancient wells which have been blocked by the enemy of one’s soul. Recovering old dreams and enthusiasms. Recovering whom one truly is. It resonates with me.
The beloved Christian writer, Catherine Marshall, in Beyond Oneself, goes back to childhood dreams as tries to discover God’s will for her life. One of her earliest dreams, she reads in her childhood diary was to be “a pretty lady with lots of perfume. And a writer.”
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I am enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. When Gretchen decides to have more fun, she realizes that because her work has been so absorbing, and because she has been so driven by ambition, productivity, and the ideas of what a serious, “legitimate” (her word) intellectual should do, she no longer even knows what she finds fun. Pure fun–something which cannot be leveraged, or double-dutied to serve one’s career or ambitions!!
A friend tells her, “What you enjoyed as a ten-year-old is probably something you’d enjoy now.” She starts reading children’s literature.
I too after decades have begun to both read and write fairy tales again, thank you, Jesus!
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As I choose books to read, or future writing projects, I am reflecting on childhood enthusiasms.
I loved fairy tales, Grimm, Andersen and Perrault, which I must have read dozens of times.
And I loved mythology above all things. My grandfather had given me a book of Norse Mythology, and I loved Odin, Freya, Thor, Loki, Balder and the Ragnarok.
I read every scrap of Greek mythology I could find, putting mythology books on birthday wish lists. I kept a notebook when I was 11, with a page I’d dedicated to every character from Greek mythology. I devotedly recorded every scrap of information I discovered there. I guess I was constructing an encyclopaedia.
When I was even younger, I loved The Mahabharata and The Ramayana, which with their themes of honour, love and family devotion, betrayal and tragedy stir deep wells of anger, sadness, “if onlys,” and “what ifs”.
I loved Arthur, the decency, gallantry, the nobility–the brief golden age with darkness hovering at its edges; the Holy Grail floating above the table; the doomed triangle of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, all three of whom tragically love each other; noble Percival and Gareth; and the dark figures of Morgan Le Fay and Mordred, whose very name is ominous.
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I started reading poetry young, because both my father and grandfather loved it, could easily recite poetry from memory, and gave me poetry books. I have always read it, with a desperate love, whether I understood it or not. I’d love to begin writing poetry again.
Shakespeare, I was introduced to through Lamb’s Tales, which my grandfather must have given me. When I went to boarding school at nine, to St. Mary’s Convent, Nainital, my classmates often asked me to tell them a story, and I would tell them Shakespeare stories, which I knew almost by heart from the beautifully written, lyrical Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.
I began reading unabridged Shakespeare when I was 11 from my father’s massive Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which he brought back from England. I started with Julius Caesar, memorizing “Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,” and Macbeth from which I memorized, “Is this a dagger I see before me.”
Reading, fiction in particular, imagined universes: that was the greatest delight of my childhood.
My other great joy and delight was losing myself in my garden. I basically spent the day there, reading in trees, or in a chair on the front lawn of our high-walled garden. And all these joys I am recovering in middle age!
And what a delight it is to re-dig ancient wells, and explore these ancient sources of pleasure again in this slower season of life.