Every school year, students will gather on their respective college campuses and be inundated by the practical applications of a life east of Eden. A life with the perpetual toil of urban living and the slowly decaying capacity for human interaction. Sure, we talk and spend our time with one another on a regular basis to distract us from the monotony of the stolen hours at work, but rarely do we form the requisite social imagination to grasp our co-participation in the unfolding patterns of God’s design. Rarely do we speak of transcendence and stand mesmerized at the confessions of Nature. Rarely do we explore the unseen realm or the depth of the oceans for want of quick, tangible proof. I am no exception to this rule – having forfeited much of my capacity to tap into the wonders of Creation in favor of transactional . . . humor. And, so, seeking to explore “through the unknown, remembered gate, when the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning,” the Namárië Forum arrives – speaking words of “farewell” to the influences of the here-and-now and turning our thoughts toward the cultivation of the Christian imagination.
In a word, the purpose for this forum is to help law students escape their worldly busyness and develop liturgical habits for work and worship. It is a time to discuss the weightier matters of the natural law and reflect on God, who made all things for himself and, thus, His Creation daily testifies of His glory. An opportunity to behold, as the poets say, that Light that knows no evening: taking responsibility for developing daily counter-liturgies that confront the economic malformations that draw us away from the divine marketplace.
To do this requires a renewed imagination, not in the sense of pretending things to be true that are false, but reflecting on the patterns of everyday existence so that we may see God’s glory through the colors of nature and through the spaces that occupy His redemptive delights. To seek to entertain – if only through a mirror darkly – a conversation with Nature in the vein of Augustine’s great dialectic, where he interrogated the outer realm with questions of design, concluding: “I asked the vast bulk of the earth of my God, and it answered me, ‘I am not He, but he made me.’”
I make no pretenses that this will be some novel experiment. After all, who can design a new leaf? Or invent new colors to heighten the mountains of Telluride? Or new sounds to harmonize with the resonance of our political discombobulation? But, J.R.R. Tolkien was right when he spoke of the artist as a creative agent: the seed of the tree can be replanted in almost any soil, even in one so smoke-ridden as that of America. The hidden treasure of Matthew 13 remains active in the city of man for those who carry the requisite faculty to scale its value. Our minds remain mutable and so our imaginations will never seize from exploration if we find the proper vessel to set sail. So, come now, let us set sail together, to Middangeard!