“I’m back.” Sam’s statement to Rosie is the way The Lord of the Rings ends. Of course, one can never say these words in this life except provisionally. There is a sense in which finite mortals cannot step in the same river twice. The Hobbiton and the Bag End to which Sam returned was not the same Hobbiton and Bag End without Frodo in them, and so we move on from the supposed ending to the Appendices and the Lost Tales and learn that eventually even Sam sailed into the West.
Nevertheless, the phrase does have a kind of truth for a while–a day, a year, an age of men. I am “back” from Mythcon, the annual meeting of the Mythopoeic Society, in San Antonio this year from August 5-8.. But one never returns the same.
How to describe a Mythcon to those who have never been? Imagine a serious academic conference with world class papers and panels on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, the other Inklings, and fantasy literature in general breaking out in the midst of a Renaissance Festival, with an Inklings meeting, a fan convention, a film festival, a Society for Creative Anachronism meeting, a theology/apologetics conference, a spiritual retreat, and an insane asylum all going on concurrently–and you will have just an inkling (ahem) of the weirdest and most satisfying convocation of Inklings devotees on the planet. Picture this astounding conglomeration as a seamless whole in which each part enriches all the others and you will have an even better idea. But you will have to attend to really understand. Warning: Mythcon is highly addictive. Like the infamous potato chip, you cannot do just one.
And so I am back–but not the same. The papers were almost all stimulating and enlightening. But what makes me feel that my own–not just understanding, but life–has been deepened is the level of integration between seriousness and fun, reason and imagination, intellect and heart, represented by the whole experience which is a Mythcon. The Inklings hold that kind or wholeness before us more effectively than any other group of writers, and their influence is not just celebrated but incarnated by the Mythies (as they call themselves) who gather around their works every year. I am blessed to be a part of it.