Fiction often surprises me. That’s one of my favorite things about it. Stories have the power to sneak up behind us and provide the revelations (and therapy) we’ve been avoiding. I never thought a fiction podcast about paranormal activity in 1921 would change my perspective on humanity, but it did.
I discovered the audio drama, McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop, late last year. It’s a fiction podcast about a girl who longs for adventure and is bored stiff — until she finds a weird pawn shop full of crazy stuff like dark red pianos, peacock feather gloves, and mummies. Melinda Maudie Merkle (the main character and narrator) finds herself entranced. She keeps returning to the pawn shop, until one day, a bit of broken china catches her attention. It’s plain, except for a bright blue eye. She buys it and takes it home.
The eye is haunted, and it kicks off an amazing adventure full of ghosts, magic, and evil 1920s gangsters called Night Enthusiasts.I was troubled by this unquestioning acceptance of loss. I didn’t want my life to continue to bleach away.
I enjoyed this audio drama immensely, but portions of it really got me thinking. The Night Enthusiasts, mysterious bad guys complete with pinstripe suits, kill part of their soul to gain power. Melinda Maudie Merkle refuses to join them, thereby keeping her soul intact. When she befriends a Night Enthusiast, however, she wonders about the Soul, and whether or not these lost pieces can be regained. She wonders if her friend can be whole again.
As a Christian, I am well aware that the Bible says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” To me, having a less-than-whole soul sounds a lot like that: we’re broken, lacking glory. The older I get, the more I aware I am of my flaws, so it can be consoling to contemplate this “soul deficit,” and acknowledge that it’s there. We’ve got a darkness inside of us. Denial of it can lead to frustration, depression, and confusion.
Acceptance of it has helped me understand who I am, and who God is in relation to me.
There’s a section at the end of Season One of McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop that spoke to me especially. The leader of the Night Enthusiasts says (and I paraphrase grossly here):
You don’t want to kill part of your soul? You will. You’re being childish. In the real world, in the adult world, we all kill portions of ourselves, bit by bit.
Be realistic, in other words. You can’t stay whole. You won’t stay whole. The adult life is all about watching our hearts slowly die.
For me, entering my early twenties was all about watching my heart slowly die. Things that had excited me as a kid, like snow or spring or the smell of a new book, now felt dead. Dull. My joy was gone. I was tapped out, exhausted.
What was worse, no one around me seemed phased by their own similar experience. They seemed to think this was it. This loss of joy was normal. This was just “how things were” now. Of course they weren’t going to feel the same levels of happiness and compassion they did when they were kids. Who would?
I was troubled by this unquestioning acceptance of loss. I didn’t want my life to continue to bleach away. I didn’t want to become bitter, hardened. I wanted to still have empathy for people, instead of staying stuck in compassion-burnout. I wanted to regain that sense that I was “okay,” that life was a marvelous thing.
I got tired of books, plays, and films that accepted brokenness as the status quo. I wondered if my friends were right, if maybe this was just “it.” Then finally, I picked up the works of C.S. Lewis again, after a long hiatus. I was struck by Lewis’s foundation, his spiritual security. His work was highly intelligent (not deluded or naive), but he didn’t treat goodness as obsolete. He didn’t treat brokenness as the status quo. Instead, his sense of heaven was profoundly real. If he could believe in Wholeness, then so could I.
Like the works of C.S. Lewis, McGillicuddy and Murder’s Pawn Shop has continued to shift my perspective on God, humanity, and the human soul. Like Melinda Maudie Merkle, I know now that I get to choose wholeness over a damaged soul. I don’t have to watch my heart slowly die. I don’t have to become a Night Enthusiast.
I still get to belong to the Light.