A few years ago I was asked by one of my students at church, a lovably chubby 13 year old, if I wanted to LARP with him. I was in my late twenties at the time, had no idea what LARP’ing was, and wasn’t particularly interested in finding out. I skillfully fabricated some lame excuse and navigated my way safely out of the conversation. Then a few months ago, I watched this movie:
Darkon is an award winning 2006 documentary about, you guessed it, LARP’ing. LARP stands for live action role play. Yes, these are the people you see from time to time on your Saturday morning hikes, rustling about in the woods just off the path, dressed like Lord of the Rings characters, with rubber swords and plastic shields, speaking with pseudo British accents. They battle each other at half speed with an intensity in their eyes that belies the awkward middle school dance choreography of their fight sequences. It can be rather comical. The rest of us mock and are cruel because we say they are too old for that.
I don’t remember what it felt like to breathe this earth’s air for the first time. I can’t recall the moment I first opened my eyes, only to be blinded by the light, awed by the unnamed colors. I have no recollection of the novelty of human touch when the doctor pulled me into this world or when my mother first held me. None of us remember the moment we were born and consequently, we take for granted the wonder of it all. We forget that we did not work or earn our way toward existence. All of us were simply invited into being by a God who chose us and this makes the whole of life one giant, splendid, inconceivably generous gift. And every breath we breathe is this same gift. But we develop a dislike for what we consider its monotony. Like the Israelites grew weary of heaven-sent manna in the desert, we grow tired of this existence. When people ask us how we are, we often respond, “Same old, same old.” But maybe we have something to learn from the LARPers. Maybe their childlike fascination with dragons, wizards, and elves is a reminder to us all that we were once young and everything was magic. Maybe their outward expressions of make-believe can point us to that inward desire in all of us to believe in something heroic and triumphant.
G.K. Chesterton writes this in Orthodoxy: “A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon… It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Tonight, I walked out of our church building after our college gathering and stood in the parking lot speaking with a friend. Our church sits on top of a hill that overlooks the city. My friend, who was visiting, said, “Wow, look at that view.” And I did. It was the same view I’d seen almost every day and night for the past 7 years. But I saw it for the first time. The lights flickered like yellow and orange sparklers against the black curtain of the night sky, announcing that a grand and epic story was about to unfold. On my drive home I thanked God and said, “Tomorrow, let’s do it again.”