The Tactile in Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS and in My Life


It’s taken me three weeks to finish reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, but it was well-worth the time and work I put into it.

The Night Circus is the tale of Celia and Marco, star-crossed lover-magicians who understand how important it is to bring magic into people’s lives and to protect it from destruction.

Although I found the book difficult to follow at first, because the POV shifts between characters I couldn’t fully remember, it ended up being a delightful read. According to Tsukiko, “The finest of pleasures are the unexpected ones,” and that was most definitely the case with The Night Circus.

Although the story was a good one, I believe the supreme value of this particular tale lies in the sensations of which it reminded me. In a recent sermon, my pastor was speaking about the sort of people our new little church plant might be able to reach, and though he listed and described any number of characters, it stuck in my head when he addressed the way certain people care much more than others do about the way their senses are engaged during a church service. I’ve never thought much about it, but I probably am one of those people who wants to smell and taste and touch, because God is more than an abstraction to me. Although I think rather a lot, I don’t like thinking for the sake of thinking, so in a search for relevance in the Almighty, I sometimes need to see paintings, hear the music, taste the wine and the bread.

I might be criticized for thinking about the church this way, because it seems very Catholic and incense-y. However, I believe God approves of at least some of this particular craving of the senses. After all, He instituted that beautiful dinner of his body, broken for us and his blood poured out for us. He called “Bezalel the son of Uri… filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze, cutting stones for setting and in carving wood, to work in every craft,” (Exodus 31:2-5). He set men out to build a beautiful temple in His name.

I confess, one of the draws of my current church is how we settle into the music. It isn’t a show that I’m supposed to observe; it is my life, and I’m meant to sing and participate. Also, the building we’re in is gorgeous and engaging. It has enormous windows that let the desert in and help me to feel that I’m a part of something bigger than a 60-minute service or one room with the same people in it each week. Just outside the windows, there is a towering cross that’s a sight to behold.

I know it seems like I’m off-topic right now, but The Night Circus is an imagery-dense book. It is black and white with splotches of red. It is fancy dresses and bowler hats, sitting down to Midnight dinners of brandy-soaked cherries and other unidentifiable pleasures. It is mysterious clocks that tick away hours of revelry and wandering; it is ice gardens and wishing trees, bonfires and hand-written notebooks. It is what I experience when I sit with my closest friends, sipping wine or the perfect latte and talking about our most secret dreams. It is a book of childish wonder, which every life should probably be reminded of and saturated in every-so-often.

I leave you with a few of my favorite passages:

Why haven’t you asked me how I do my tricks?

Because I do not wish to know… I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark.

 

The past stays on you the way powdered sugar stays on your fingers. Some people can get rid of it but it’s still there, the events and things that pushed you to where you are now.

 

The silence that falls between them is a comfortable one. He longs to reach over and touch her, but he resists, fearful of destroying the delicate camaraderie they are building.

Stop behaving as though you love that boy… You are above such mundane things. 

It bothers him most at times like this, in the bottom of the brandy bottle and the quiet of the night.

 

I mean only that I hope they find darkness or paradise without fear of it, if they can.

 

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a dreamer… There is not. But dreams have ways of turning into nightmares.

 

Wine is bottled poetry.

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