I spend five nights a week working as a production journalist for an Australian news agency, which means I engage with many of the horror stories that emerge daily from the global political realm, the fields of war, the courts, the parliaments, the streets, the police stations. Then during the day I write (a novel, among other things) and reflect as a theologian, more often than not as Scarlet City’s theologian-at-large. So it’s fair to say I spend many hours a day at the interface of “faith” and the stories that make up the daily news bulletins. It’s a dynamic – and challenging – place to be.
Over recent days, I’ve been impacted with just how terrible aspects of our world are. Submerged as I am in a fairly unhealthy diet of murder, deceit, greed, chaos, barbarism etc, I tend to believe that’s all that the world is. One consequence of this can be a deep-seated sense of fear or hopelessness, and a certain amount of disdain for the perpetrators of violence and abuse that I’m reading about. No matter where I look, our world seems to be overrun with people doing terrible, unspeakable things to other people. I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years, yet I’m still shocked by the many different ways that people have dreamt up to hurt other people. No wonder writers like Dostoevsky and Orwell, both of them journalists, despaired for their world and almost reached a point of admitting that “faith” could no longer find a way through the darkness to offer hope.
We seem to be living in that sort of world at the moment.
In The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance, which is a game for children (which means the darkness has to be depicted in a less confronting way), this all-pervasive human deprivation is represented by a fog that permeates everything. Not only that, it’s become the primary power source for the new Aethasia following the deposing of the Great Engineer, who had designed and built great engines to keep the fog at bay. With the rise of a usurper, Lucky, the great engines have been shut down and the inhabitants have become reliant on the fog for their power needs, even though they’re well aware of its corrosive effects.
The reality is, the inhabitants of Aethasia have forgotten how good it was to live under the rule of the Great Engineer. It’s been so long since they’ve lived with music and dance and art and laughter – not to mention fresh air! – that they have no collective memory of what that reality was … and so they’ve become “comfortable” with the alternative, the fog. As C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory (and he could be describing the Aethasians as much as us): “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
What I wonder is this: Has the global community become too comfortable with bad news, darkness, violence, abuse? Have we stopped challenging these terrible things as much as we might because we feel overwhelmed by them? Is fear actually winning out over hope?
In The Aetherlight, the response to the fog and the Usurper’s rule is the emergence of a Resistance, because, as it turns out, not everyone has forgotten the old days, and not everyone has become “far too easily pleased”.
Perhaps that’s also the only hope for our world right now – a resistance, by people who long for the darkness to be pushed back from the world so that we can sing and dance and enjoy the fresh air, free from the fear of violence.
And I also wonder this: where would such a resistance begin?