The snow is white like my blind eye peering through a horned helmet. The distant howl of a wolf startles me, prompting a knee-jerk response to unsheathe my two-handed battle-axe. I stand motionless on the mountain path.
I hear his ragged breath through the trees before I spot him, a flash of teeth seeking flesh. I bludgeon the beast's skull with a grunt and chase his hide before it slides down the mountainside.
This is Skyrim. And my mountain path is a sacred meditation marked by stone tablets, laying out the history of the land, the people and our religion.
This is a spiritual moment. Not in the game, but here on the couch I've been sitting on for the last four hours, sipping noodle soup and green tea, (I have a cold ok?). I had a spiritual encounter sometime between clothing this 300-pound Viking in leather and magic rings and climbing this ancient rocky path.
The Voice. Greybeards. Gods. Demons. Yes, they are overtly spiritual, and I'll admit, the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of High Hrothgar all smacks of borrowed mysticism.
But that wasn't my spiritual experience. No, it was here on a mountain clearing overlooking the village I left a few minutes ago, that I met God. It started with an urge to leave my comfy couch, my soup and even my green tea. It was an urge to go outside, to explore.
It was like my slumbering soul suddenly jerked awake, like my wife after sticking my ice cold feet between her warm calves. I wanted to be in nature. I wanted to feel the sharp, cold wind on my face, freezing the juice around my eyeballs. I wanted to be on that peak of Skyrim. And that desire also conjured up sadness. Not because I couldn't afford the ticket to the Rockies, but because somehow I knew even if Skyrim was a place I could visit with my own fleshy body, it wouldn't be enough. I was longing to be in the place that Skyrim reminded me of; the jagged peaks of the Throat of the World are only a postcard from somewhere I can’t go.
Skyrim reminds me of heaven.
Sermons and hymns (unless sung by a choir of Nords) just don't convey the wildness, wonder and the sense of purpose I imagine heaven offers. There are no golden, fleecy clouds and harps to... uhh harp on. There are no white bathrobes and soft-spoken angels with nothing better to do than star in cream cheese commercials. No, this is the heaven I want to spend the rest of eternity in; an untamed world of unexplored mountain caves, warm cottages, cold mead and big beards.
Unlikely afterlife? Maybe. But my soul just tried jumping out of my shirt, so I think there's something to this place.
Besides, the characters we're creating to conquer this northern province of Tamriel sound a lot like the description of Jesus,
...and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelations 1: 13-18 NIV)
A man with golden clothing, white beard, glowing eyes, voice like the sound of rushing waters, (not unlike the dragon shouts?) with seven stars in his hand (dual wielding destruction magic?) and a double-edged sword in his mouth.
Awesome character build, and no, I'm not being facetious here.
This is a truer picture of Jesus than the skinny brown-bearded hippy we immortalize in stain glass. That was the old man, Gandalf the grey, a pilgrim hooded and cloaked. Not the all-powerful being unleashed: Gandalf the white.
This is his true nature. Sword-in-tongue and stars in hand.
Not a churchy image. Yet the image millions of young men are embodying in Skyrim.