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Atrus: Seeing the ‘Whole’

Job 38:1, 33, 36 “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:...‘Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me..... Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?...Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?’.”

Unless you’ve played the Myst games or read the Myst books, you probably never heard of Atrus. He’s the kind and studious descendant of the D’ni—an underground people who disappeared decades before his birth. True, he’s not the deepest character I’ve ever seen. Still, his origin story really speaks to me as a Christian and an author. In Myst: The Book of Atrus, Atrus starts off unaware of his heritage, but once his father re-emerges, he learns his ancestors possessed a great secret: the Art—the ability to create books that ‘linked’ a person to the very world its author writes. Now, all writers know full well making books is terribly taxing. However, the consequences in using the Art could be far more dire. Everything depended on whether Atrus could see the ‘Whole’; something every person needs yet struggles to see.

So what exactly is the ‘Whole’? In Myst: The Book of Atrus, it refers to how all parts of a world meshes together. All parts must compliment the others. It’s similar to how particularly mindful writers conceive fictional worlds. They recognize how geography, ecosystems, and so on affect each other as well as anyone who dwells there. In Atrus’s case, though, he has to deal with the pressure of ensuring his descriptions flow seamlessly, lest the linked world he writes collapses. I think every creative person has faced something similar. The sheet is blank. You have zero limits, yet your grand idea sounds cheesy on paper. Or you can’t get your dots to connect. Or you stall, thinking your vision is still unfit to see daylight. You’re ultimately seeking the ‘Whole’, same as Atrus. Some people forge ahead and hope to stumble upon it. Some delay ‘til they grasp it. Others sadly never find it, but no matter how we go about it, we often wind up praying everything will click. The craziest part is, though, finding the elusive ‘Whole’ extends far past the canvas, the music sheet, or the page.

Now, I won’t spoil the book. I fully recommend you all read it for yourselves, actually, but to put it in broad strokes, Atrus’s experiences learning the Art contains more twists than he bargained for. He becomes aware that seeking the ‘Whole’ is essential for everything, not just the linking books, thanks the sharp contrast between the main influencers in his life: his father, Ghen, and his grandmother, Anna. Ghen regards things through a microscope and treats the Art like compiling formulas. He simply inserts individual phrases to get individual results. Anna, on the other hand, had always reminded a very young Atrus to ask one question: ‘What do you see?’ It doesn’t sound all that revolutionary, but every time her voice repeated, ‘What do you see?’, his perspective broadened. His calculative mind quieted. Then he’d see the ‘Whole’ at work before him. This principle later helps him also see the hidden truths behind his ancestors, his father, and even the Art itself. Those scenes in particular always reminded me of the importance of silencing oneself before He who indeed knows the ‘Whole’.

For us, seeing the ‘Whole’ is to possess all the answers. We hear voices of uncertainty every day. We want to make sense of the past and future. We wish to read other’s intentions at a glance. We crave certainty in our decisions. Unfortunately, only God can fully see the ‘Whole’. I know saying so is nothing new. However, I’m disheartened whenever someone says ‘trust God’ then resigns to never knowing. Because it implies trusting His perfect plans means not seeking the ‘Whole’ anymore. God wouldn’t have given us His written Word if He wanted us to sit back and remain unmindful of His plans. No. There is a way to see the ‘Whole’, and it’s reflected in the same four words Anna instilled in Atrus. ‘What do you see?’

When Job contended with God over his circumstances, he inspected his pain through a microscope. Then God zoomed the camera out to reveal what his narrow view missed. And what did Job see? God’s power, goodness, and faithfulness consistently running the show in massive patterns only He Himself could record. Job saw the ‘Whole’. It’s like standing centimeters away from a painting. Your sight is filled with colorful tiny strokes, but then you inch back. The colors take recognizable shape. Step back further. Now you behold an exquisite view. Move farther away. Now even the carved frame supporting the painting’s world catches your eye. Lastly, you turn your gaze to a hall full of paintings by the same artist. We won’t know God’s exact ways any more than we can know the painter’s exact techniques, but God, who has the ‘Whole’, framed His pattern for us in His Word, so we could see it if we seek it to understand Him more. He wants us to look beyond the brushstrokes that paint our little world.

So if your writing is going nowhere or you’re fighting for answers to your hardship, withdraw from the microscope. Seek the big picture. Ask the Lord for His wisdom. View your project, the people around you, and the world through the Bible’s window. Then ask that same simple question that taught Atrus how to understand the ‘Whole’....

What do you see?

“[Anna] taught me what is good and what is to be valued, those truths which cannot be shaken or changed.” - Atrus

1 Corinthians 2:9-10, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him,’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”

I hope you liked this article! Please consider liking, sharing, and leaving a comment. And if you’d like to see more of what I do and my upcoming book, Celestial, visit my Celestial book page and consider subscribing for my free, non-spammy newsletter below! Thank you!

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