I haven’t written in a long time. Not just at the Rabbit Room, but anywhere. I wish there were some genuinely good reason for this, like transient loss of finger movement, or that my brain suddenly started thinking only in Japanese for a few months straight. But there isn’t.
At the end of very long days of work, I’ve been defaulting to iPad games. The days are long, I say. I’m busy. Right? We’re all busy. “How are you doing?” our friend/family member asks. “Oh, good, just so busy.” That’s how we answer. And because I’m so busy, at the end of the day, I quite plainly haven’t wanted to think about anything deep – God, myself, other people, a story, a poem, a song. No, thanks.
I am, however, a level 92 player on Clash of Clans, with my own clan that will one day rise to the top 100. I am also at level 123 of Candy Crush. Because that matters.
And I haven’t written a thing. Not only have I not written a thing, I’ve barely read a thing. The two are related, of course. By why am I not reading and writing?
Thankfully, two weeks ago, I was completely jarred out of this by the unexpected revelation that J.K. Rowling had a new book, already out, under the name Robert Galbraith. A mystery novel! I started with the e-book and then switched over to audiobook, because of my long hours on the road. I finished it last night on the way to a Gordon Lightfoot show. When it ended (great book, by the way), I felt a sudden longing, something I hadn’t felt in a while and deeply missed. This story is over. I need another one. I downloaded Neil Gaiman’s newest book and listened to the first half on the way home from the Lightfoot show (great show, by the way).
Back to my question: Why wasn’t I reading and writing? These things have been so important to me for so many years. What happened?
I’d been running from emptiness. The problem was, as Neil Gaiman says, that it turns out wherever you run, you bring yourself with you.
This morning, over breakfast at a local restaurant, somehow in the middle of keeping the kids from smearing maple syrup all over everything, Tricia and I had a conversation about the things we do to avoid the emptiness and longing we each feel as human beings on planet earth. Most of the time, instead of facing it, we add another layer of meaninglessness above it. We get ourselves unhealthily attached to anything; it doesn’t have to be a traditionally “dangerous” addiction.
It’s not easy experiencing all the internal conflict of being a fallen person in a fallen world with longings for beauty and truth and community but equally strong longings for the exact opposite. Clash of Clans isn’t bad. Candy Crush isn’t either. Whatever games, or shows, or other distractions you like aren’t evil. I’m still going to have a top 100 clan some day (Tricia is rolling her eyes as she reads this). But I avoided story because story doesn’t let me avoid. It makes me think, imagine, feel, and experience life. It puts me into conflict and resolution, despair and relief, dyscatastrophe and eucatastrophe.
So here I am again. To be completely honest, Clash of Clans is open on my iPad, just to the left of this computer. But I’m writing, and I’m feeling and hoping and opening up, just a little, to the memory that there’s a big, gaping emptiness in me that can be filled only with Jesus.