Ever do something and only afterwards try to explain why?
I mean, you know why when you’re doing it, cause you like doing it. In my case, it involved writing a novel based on an idea I had about 15 years ago and only recently figured out how to do right, after several wrong attempts. In my case, I also have a wife who thought it the best idea ever (to appear in our household) and still believes this in the manner of the unstoppable force, that it’s such a good idea that it’ll sell a million copies.
But how about everything that’s in the book? I find myself now wanting to share why they’re there.
The most important sagas we can tell ourselves, and our children, are about the clash of civilizations going on in our time between the Muslim Middle East and what I refer to as the Christianized West. This latter term refers to both Europe, and the New World of North and South America, as well as to those parts of the rest of the globe that tilt, in a religious sense, in the direction of the west, whether in Africa, or even in huge swaths of Asia such as exist in China and South Korea. The only comparable time in the history of Islam (during a resistance phase) and Christianity (during an expansion phase), were the Crusades. [The west now uses the power of the military to spread free democracy rather than Christianity, and this puts a wrinkle in the historic parallel, but only a small one.]
We’ve been trained to hate the Crusades, and to think of them as a barbaric mistake. It’s likely that many future historians will train their pupils up to hate everything about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and every other western intervention in the Middle East, even Israel. Depending on how things go, our descendants may witness the destruction of Israel, and come to see that tiny state as a symbol of western arrogance deserving of the obliteration which it may yet see, at some future point, at least from the perspective of today’s world.
So the sagas we tell about this large, world-altering conflict matter. They matter a great deal.
In some way, the tales of King Arthur and Excalibur, the Round Table, and the search for the Holy Grail mattered to those old souls who lived through the Crusades. These ancient adventures remain with us, and resonate today, hundreds of years later. In the west, it is rare to find any other tale worthy of such remembrance, and across such a broad swath of time, outside the Bible itself.
I don’t know if any of us can tip the scales in favor of western civilization by merely telling stories that spring from our spirit. Forces larger than anything a man such as myself can muster might have other plans for us all. Yet, I can’t stop trying. Because, while there are forces of darkness, untruth, power-seeking, and guilt-imposing, that only hunger for their own advantage, and care not what casualties may fall by the wayside, there are also forces of light and truth working from humbler stations and by simpler, better means.
If any one of us wants to move the world, or at least to move a human heart that can move the world, it may start with a story.
After all, if Geoffrey of Monmouth could manage it using his King Arthur character as the catalyst, even during the dark days of the Crusades, why can’t someone else do something similar today?
Jim Lion’s latest novel, “The Reliquary” is available at Amazon here.
A book trailer can be viewed on YouTube here.