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Let There Be Play –Jennifer Trafton on “Holy Silliness”

Jennifer Trafton has a happy habit of hitting the nail on the head. Below, I share a poignant portion of an astonishingly good read on Children’s Stories, Imagination, and Joy at the Center of Creation. I would urge parents to read it and then march forth and post-haste feed your children’s souls on stories and songs, silly poems, and playtime. A good place to start is with Jennifer’s own adventure, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic.

This is taken from Jennifer’s Rabbit Room essay, The Art of Play, which I urge you to read entire. (It was originally delivered as a talk at Hutchmoot 2011.) Thanks, Jennifer! –Sam


How can we possibly grasp the mystery of God and heavenly realities unless we have first allowed stories to take the lid off of what we think of as reality so that the stuff of creation can bubble over in shapes beyond our expectations? My favorite stories—and the stories I hope to write—provoke the question, “What if there is more to the world than what I see on the surface?” They make me more open to a world where the marvelous and the miraculous are possible. And they do it in a way that is delightful.

That is what I mean by a holy silliness. Yes, there is a profound need for art that plumbs the depths of human depravity and suffering and shows that redemption is possible within that darkness. But there is also a profound need for art that creates spaces of innocence—innocent play, innocent joy, innocent beauty—in a world where innocence is violently stripped away from even the youngest children, and where adults have spent so long choking in the smog of corruption that they have forgotten what it is like to breathe pure fresh air.

I will defend and defend the belief that the deepest reality of human life that we must impress upon children is not that life is hard and death is inevitable and they need to get used to sadness and darkness and make the best of it. The deepest reality is joy. The prize hidden under the scratch-and-win card of life is a beauty so big that no happy ending in a story can even come close to approximating it. War is a horrific stain on the floor of an extravagant ballroom. Tears are temporary; laughter is eternal.

I am so grateful for art that takes us to the emotional place of the Cross—that place where we are forced to face the agony of evil in this world and walk through the door of pain to the other side. The courage and honesty of such artists is breathtaking to me.

I long for more art that offers me Resurrection . . . Eden regained.

The beauty of children’s literature is that it allows space for both—innocence and redemption, pain and silliness, honesty and happy endings.

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