Examining Light Novels: A Bored God

Volume twelve of Spice and Wolf can only be described as boring.  (The Japanese have a proverb that only a fool buys complete collections of books.  It just might be true!)  The story features a journey undertaken by Lawrence and company with a famous silversmith named Fran Vonely.  Fran has a near encyclopedic knowledge of local lore and history.  So, our heroes help her for the sake of at last obtaining a map pointing out the location of Yoitsu.  Finding Holo’s homeland happens to be the main point of the series, and we’ve already seen novels focused on this idea.  Not much sets it apart from other such novels.  As someone who craves variety, I cannot stand this overused plot.

I love how the map the novel provides tells one exactly where Yoitsu is.

One line casually spoken by a villager stood out to me however: “She gave such wonderful sermons that even God would be enchanted by them, they say” (90).  This struck me not so much because a woman was preaching as because it implies that God is not impressed with much.  One might think that God finds creation dull, since nothing is new under the sun.  The truth is quite the reverse.

St. Faustina Kowalska tells us that God is enchanted by our prayers.  In truth, this does not matter whether we pray spontaneously or by rote.  Though the Our Father is said the same way, there are millions of conditions, hopes, longings, desires, motives, and emotions which can accompany each repetition.  The Rosary appears to be formed of a repetition of six Our Fathers, six doxologies, and fifty-three Hail Maries, but God sees each as slightly or profoundly different.  This is like how the phrase “I love you” takes on a myriad of nuances between lovers.

st-anthony-of-paduaBut, there is much cause to believe that God is not bored even with sameness.  Pride is a vice found more in adults than in children and not at all in God.  Does not God tell us to be childlike because He Himself is childlike?  God has frequently approached many saints in the guise of a child–most famously in the case of St. Anthony of Padua.  In Orthodoxy, the great G. K. Chesterton pointed out that children love seeing the same thing over and over again.  We especially see this phenomenon with movies, as children are hardly done with their favorites though they watch it twenty times.  Likewise, God, in His childlike love of creation, has no problem repeating the seasons and other things over and over again.  From the view of the divine, what necessity is there that apple trees always produce apples?  Why not figs occasionally?  Why not tigers and unicorns?  Why should they flower always with the same color?  You can bet that if a merely human mind ran the universe, all of the changes above would occur at least once!

What about a sermon?  Many complain that sermons contain the same subjects.  But, the only sermon which bores God is one which does not proceed from a good will.  But, for all God’s childlike wonder, something does bore God: sin.  Sins have all been done before with the same malice or weakness.  They choke the life out of life and the creative out of creation.  Some hardened sinners claim that goodness is boring, but it is far more common to find a bored globetrotting playboy than a bored Missionary of Charity.  Why should that be?  The playboy enjoys the choicest food and drink, adventures galore, beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, and entertainment without end.  The religious sister has the same companions, the same food, the same Mass, the same prayers, the same poor, and the same routine.  But, the sister has God at her rising, throughout the day, and is even visited with holy dreams at night.  Where there is God, there is joy.  Without God, there is only the sorrow and ennui of sin.

img_0663How fortunate is it for us that the repentance of sinners bores God not in the least!  Not only does repentance not bore God, but it even causes God along with the angels and saints of heaven to rejoice.  God tires not of rejoicing over our repeated repentance even if we should grow tired of our many lapses into sin.  To the sinner who needs to convert again, God exclaims “Do it again!” even as He tells the trees to put on new foliage each spring.

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5 thoughts on “Examining Light Novels: A Bored God

  1. I think your series on Spice and Wolf just passed where I left off in the novels! D:

    I’ve started this volume in Japanese a time or two, but by the time I get through the first page I’m so mentally exhausted that I just switch to manga, haha.

    One thing I love about reading this series as a Christian is interpreting everything said through my own beliefs and perspective. The story is just rife with topics worth discussing if you have any interest in religion or spirituality, such that even the most boring entries have at least SOMETHING to talk about.

    Something I pondered as I read your article was your claim that God is without pride. Surely, the Bible necessitates that God is perfect in all ways, but as I am reading through Exodus currently, it’s strange to think of the Old Testament God as not being prideful. The constant claims that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His power and existence are hard to marry with the meekness shown by Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean they can’t be reconciled, obviously, but it surely is worth thoughtful consideration, though beyond the scope of your article.

    Looking forward to your next entry!

    1. The opening of the novel does involve a convoluted dialogue: something one does not easily translate from Japanese. 🙂 But, yeah, the first half reads like a chronology of necessary events, which is not particularly interesting.

      You’re right about Hasekura putting many interesting ideas into his books: I almost wrote about the proverbial quality of his writing, which is actually akin to how ancient peoples thought.

      It is very easy for people to think that God is proud. After all, He is omnipotent, omniscient, and great in all ways. The hardening of Pharoah’s heart is one of the more difficult passages to explain, but our hearts are only hardened when we refuse God’s grace. So, God foreknew that Pharaoh would refuse His grace, which God had meant for Pharaoh’s benefit. So, God speaks of hardening Pharaoh’s heart in terms of what actually happens rather then the intended effect of grace.

      To continue using the Exodus story, the fact that God sent nine plagues of gradually increasing severity shows God’s humility. After all, a proud king, upon hearing of his subjects’ disobedience to a particular command, might destroy their land, enslave their people, execute many as examples, and mete out other punishments disproportionate to a single act of disobedience. If God were proud, the ninth plague would have been the first.

      But, too many people have an image of a proud God, which is unfortunate because it keeps them from coming to Christ.

  2. “Some hardened sinners claim that goodness is boring, but it is far more common to find a bored globetrotting playboy than a bored Missionary of Charity. Why should that be? The playboy enjoys the choicest food and drink, adventures galore, beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, and entertainment without end. The religious sister has the same companions, the same food, the same Mass, the same prayers, the same poor, and the same routine. But, the sister has God at her rising, throughout the day, and is even visited with holy dreams at night. Where there is God, there is joy. Without God, there is only the sorrow and ennui of sin.”

    This is definitely an interesting way to look at it, although there’s a secular explanation too. You know how teenagers tend to take a lot of risks, and there are some other people who will do anything (Including literally jumping out of a plane!) to get a thrill? Turns out (And they actually did research this) that’s because the thrill-seekers either get more of a rise out of adrenaline, or they’re the opposite: biologically less reactive to stimuli than are normal people. A globetrotting playboy is almost guaranteed to be one of the latter: Someone who could get bored in the middle of a terrorist attack for no other reason than because his chemistry predisposes him to be more bored by everything.

    A sociopath is actually a person who is like this too, because empathy (That is, engagement with and interest in other people’s survival and success) can cause you to be aroused by someone else’s experiences. If you’re missing that, you’ll almost inevitably suffer from bouts of anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure around things that are supposed to make you happy. You’ll need to do more and more extreme things to get a reaction out of your amygdala. And these statements aren’t drawn from nowhere, as I’ve met at least four of them. Someone with autism is sort of the opposite in many ways: A person for whom new experiences provoke fear and repeating a movie is still viable as an adult.

    The nuns are another possible opposite: People with such strong empathy and innate peace from God that repeating the same experiences holds no boredom. That, and as you’ve said….There’s really nothing more intense than a religious experience so far as pleasure goes. People misunderstand when they say that a life of praise of God is dull, I think. They see the outside of the person…When it’s the internal dialogue, the lingering gaze, the grand dance…That matters. You’d almost have to be going out of your way to be bored around something like that. What excitement they see in us I cannot fathom.

    1. Thanks for your comment, and sorry for my delay in replying! Your comment illustrates the problem of replying on emotional highs: they often require greater and greater stimuli and led to disillusionment and boredom. People’s brain chemistry often adapts to the lives they lead; yet, depression can strike even the most mild mannered and content. The human mind is more tortuous than we can fathom.

      In the case of religious people, as I myself have experienced, the highs found at the beginning of conversion eventually taper off or disappear. The heroine of the novel Madame Bovary starts off as enthusiastic about religion, and then loses interest once her emotions die down. From there, she turns to the tempestuous ecstasy of romance and meets a bad end.

      On the other hand, the diary of St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, has a fascinating beginning because it starts with the fact of St. Faustina having a close relationship with Jesus and then immediately plunges into her dark night of the soul. In her novitiate, she felt rejected by God and utter distaste for mass, prayer, meditation, and anything religious, because they gave her no comfort. But, she persevered, and joy and love of God’s will reigned in her heart after the trial of her novitiate–despite even the trials which awaited her from that point until the end of her life.

      Joy and delight are good things, but the worst thing a person can do is hope for these to sustain them. Though, thoughts of past joys can often be of help during trial.

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