Like a lot of people, I received an Amazon Kindle e-reader for Christmas. I've really enjoyed it and have found several uses for it. One of my favorites is that it is for me like an ever-accessible version of the bin of random paperbacks at a used book store. So I've used it to pick up--mostly for free--all kinds of random old things I might want to read or read once again. One of these was a big collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories for only a couple of dollars.
I was really into Lovecraft for a spell in my middle teen years, and as I've read a few of these odd stories once again, full as they are with both fantastical beings and pointedly conservative old New England prejudices, I have wondered why they were once so enjoyable for me. I think I have an idea.
When I was little, like during recess in elementary school, I used to wonder idly sometimes about a lot of questions I had. Some of these were cosmic. Why was there something instead of nothing? What would it be like if there was nothing? I used to be fascinated by how hard it was to think about it. Others were about how the world seemed to be set up. If fog was the same thing as clouds, as I was told, why did the two look different? Did the water in the ocean go all the way to the bottom? How come you could sometimes feel the air, and sometimes not, but you could never see it? How come if you thought about it, you had to breathe on purpose or hold your breath and die (as I was told) but at other moments you realized that you were breathing all along without thinking about it? Still other questions, and in some ways the most interesting and frustrating ones, centered around my experience as an individual self-consciousness. Could this particular self-consciousness--which I am--have been born in another place or time? Or could it only have come to exist in these particular historical circumstances? When I was dead, I was told, it would be just the same as before I was born. But could that be?
I don't mean that I had the proper language for these questions at the time; mostly I felt them more than I was able to articulate them. Not having the language, my attempts to ask adults about them were mostly pointless. I remember in particular that when I tried to ask questions about the 'individual self-consciousness' I only had language to talk about particularity in terms of location and vision, and so I talked about my 'outlook.'
All this is just to say that ever since I was little I have had a kind of sense that there is more to the story, that we live in the midst of a much larger reality and history of which we are only dimly aware in our day-to-day lives. This is very much the sense one gets in Lovecraft; there is much 'more to the story,' to the history of the earth and the cosmos, and it is very, very sinister and will threaten your sanity even to become aware of it for a moment.
A few years later in life I would realize that the 'more to the story' of which I had always been aware and curious about at some level, was the Ground of all being that religious people call 'God.' Far from being sinister, this 'more to the story' was entirely benevolent. As one of my professors likes to translate what the medievals call the benignitas of God, it is 'aggressive goodness.' I was grateful to discover that this reality, which turned out to be more a reality than anything else, could be stepped into through the Word made flesh. And so I got to be the Christian.