Reading as a Spiritual Practice: Percy Jackson

And we say again:

  1. If you haven’t read any of the Percy Jackson or Heroes of Olympus series and you don’t want to know what happens, please stop reading now.
  2. If you are uncomfortable with the ideas of truth emerging from mythical stories, beware as you read. I would love to have real conversation with you about it, but keep it civil.

It is no secret in my house that I am reader. My kids are very familiar with the sight of me curled up with a book and know that it means that holding my attention could be tricky until I finish. It is also a less than normal occurrence for them to read something that I am not at least somewhat familiar with. But…it has been done.

On our family’s epic road trip to Washington DC this past spring break, the oldest said, “Mom, you have to read these books! I love them!” She handed me the first in the Percy Jackson series, “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief”.

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When one is going to be in the car for 24 hours one way, one might as well be reading. And read I did. I read all 5. And LOVED them!

Percy is one of many “half-bloods” or children born to one parent who is a god and one parent who is a human. There are many tell-tale signs that you might be a half-blood, or demigod. Most demigods are ADHD–it is very helpful on the battlefield and dyslexic–they are much better at reading ancient Greek. Percy discovers that he is the son of Poseiden, the sea god, and suddenly understands why he loves all manner of blue colored foods and loves to swim. He also now knows why he gets in trouble in so many schools; the mythic monsters that are disguised as his teachers wreck havoc!

There are two things I want to dwell on from this series as it relates to our spiritual lives. One, we don’t belong here anymore than Percy does and there are signs for us, too. Our hearts are made for another world while our bodies were made for this one. We, too, can feel out of step with the world around us. But, just as Percy must learn to navigate both worlds, so must we. Our bodies are not meant to be hindrances to the spiritual life; instead they are tools we learn to use to experience the wonders made around us. All of us, soul and body, are made to be a home for the One who created us. They are meant to be united in purpose, not divided.

Secondly, story is only as powerful as we personally experience it. Now, think on that for a moment. Story is only as powerful as we personally experience it. Percy has heard all of the old Greek myths before but now he must live them. He has to outsmart and out-battle the monsters of the stories. He can’t just do the same thing the original hero in the story does, he has to learn from the story and adapt the lesson to his own strengths. We too must learn to live the stories. There are fingerprints of God in every story humanity has ever told. In all of our myths, from every culture, there are heroes who defeat the monsters, who save the good guys, who become their true selves.

We must learn to live the story.

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