"At the heart of the Christian faith," says Thomas Merton, "is the conviction that, when death is accepted in a spirit of faith, and when one's life is oriented to self-giving so that at its end one gladly and freely surrenders it back into the hands of God the Creator and Redeemer, then death is transformed into a fulfillment. One conquers death by love - not by one's own heroic virtuousness, but by sharing in that love with which Christ accepted death on the Cross. This is not apparent to reason: it is, precisely, a matter of faith. But the Christian is one who believes that when he has united his life and his death with Christ's gift of himself on the Cross, he has not merely found a dogmatic answer to human problem and a set of ritual gestures which comfort and allay anxiety: he has gained access to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore he lives no longer by his own forfeited and fallen existence, but by the eternal and immortal life that is given him, in the Spirit, by Christ. He lives 'in Christ.'"
This post shall talk about three things: emotional death, feelings of exile, and a character named Magus from Chrono Trigger. And even though I never plan these posts out beforehand, I'm sure I'll be able to tie it all together somehow.
First, Magus. Who is Magus? Magus is a character from my favorite video game, Chrono Trigger, a game about using time travel to save the world. If you plan to play this game on SNES, PSX, or DS/3DS, skip the next three paragraphs. Magus' story begins in the game's "middle ages" period, wherein Magus is an evil villain bent on taking over the world. The "good guys" at this point, believe that Magus is the creator of an evil creature named Lavos, who eventually destroys the world. After a puzzling series of events, it becomes clear that Magus did not, in fact, create Lavos at all. Lavos crashed into the planet 65 million years ago. Magus was merely attempting to summon Lavos out of the ground - to kill him. Why? Revenge. However, the "good guys" foil Magus' attempt and through a bizarre accident they all end up in 15,000 B.C., a time when the "magical kingdom of Zeal" reigns over the earth. It is my personal favorite part of the game - the scenery, the music, and the dreamlike experience of the area is glorious.
Anyway, apparently, Lavos' presence on earth actually has given some humans magic powers. The Queen of Zeal, however, is bent on resurrecting Lavos to use him as a gigantic source of magical powers (which at this point in the game we have already discovered is a terrible idea). Your group follows the events as they unfold, and it is clear that Schala, the Queen's daughter, is instrumental in being used to help bring about Lavos' return (against her will), while the younger brother, Janus (whom you discover is actually Magus as a young boy), has no apparent magical ability and broods around the Kingdom, disliking his older sister's treatment. Your group, the good guys, show up and make trouble, but are foiled by a mysterious prophet. You cannot stop the resurrection of Lavos, and once it occurs, the prophet reveals himself to be Magus in disguise. However, at this point in the game Lavos is so powerful compared to all of you, including Magus/Janus, that you must make a desperate escape and actually lose one of your characters to Lavos' wrath. The young version of Magus, Janus, is sent to the middle ages, where we can easily assume he eventually became Magus. The adult Magus goes off to a remote area to think about the course of events (being a Byronic hero of sorts).
Not only did Magus live his entire life exiled almost 20,000 years beyond his birth date seeking to gain enough power to summon and destroy Lavos to revenge his sister and fail that, but when he finally gets another chance in his original time period to defeat Lavos, he is still not strong enough. He had to live through the most traumatic time in his life twice.
What does this have to do with me? Well, first of all the character of Magus strikes me as admirable in a sense. Of course, he believes the terrible means by which he gained power justified the ends of killing the evil Lavos, which would be bad enough except he also was motivated by revenge...but yet, I can't help but admire the great tenacity. The determination it would take to live one's entire life motivated by avenging his sister's (apparent) death - well, I don't know what else to say except I like that. It reminds me of my own lesser determination to follow God's will for my life, which I believe is to take part in the self-gift of married life. Right now, however, it's not going so well.
In fact, I feel like I'm reliving some of the worst parts of my life, as Magus did. It hurts, but it is a necessary hurt. I know that one cannot gain something good without sacrifice. Often times, it ends with me sacrificing my comfort in not saying something terrifying and making myself vulnerable to someone else, only to get stepped on. So be it - it will all certainly be worth my trouble, someday. At least, I have to believe so. Magus did, and he's not even real.
And so now, however, I go into an exile of sorts. I feel as though in this moment of my life, I am really bidding farewell to many of the people who have known me the best in my life. Who I have become emotionally attached to...I have to let them go. There is nothing I can do. I can only move on. That is the nature of friendship - it's not forever. It's transient. And it feels like being exiled. It hurts to feel so alone in the world. But what am I to do, except go on.
It feels like a death. Did you read the quote at the start of this post? It is all about this kind of death. I am not experiencing a literal death, however, but an emotional one. If I am to not let this conquer me, I must look at it realistically - if I have given myself as a gift to these friends who are leaving, then I should be happy to give it all back to God as they go on. I must conquer this death through my love of them.
In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, "I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat' — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory." I believe this applies also to my life - it will be no more than a long defeat. But it will have "glimpses of final victory," in which, perhaps, I will see the fruit of my love. Perhaps in only a smile.
I know this is a long post...but thank you for reading. It always means a lot.
There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream of conquering death by love.