I wake up one morning to realize that the thing I thought true is not. Not only is it not mine, it never really was, never actually existed, at all. Never existed anywhere except in my imagination. In our growing up we try so hard to live in the real world, and in the process we experience our imagination being stifled, sidelined. It is such a common story, particularly for those of us at middle age, as we pass through the valley of the shadow of self-re-discovery. The busy-ness of life has disposed us to set aside the ‘frivolous’ pursuits in favor of those which will pay the rent. The ones who refuse this path of accomodation to societies norms are considered rebels, even irresponsible. Don’t get a degree in theatre or art or music – how will you support yourself, much less a family. That may all be valid, to a point. That does not mean that we must completely pack away those impulses for imagination and creativity.
What I’ve concluded is that imagination will out. It is like the great line in the first Jurassic Park movie spoken by Jeff Goldbloom’s character, Dr. Ian Malcolm
Imagination is a part of that life-force, God-force, Creative (and therefore HOLY) Spirit. Imagination, human imagination, will find a way. So, I think today, that my imagination creates versions of my reality that are more comfortable, appealing, interesting, safe. They are not the true external reality, but my interpretation of it – which is a creative process, or can be, I am suggesting.
This happens most often, for me, in relationships, the nature of which is ultimately mystery. My Christian Faith, and Family Systems Theory, are both helpful resources to me in making sense of all of this. Even so, I get confused. These resources help, in large measure, by providing an external yard-stick or guide (the meaning of the word ‘canon’, as in ‘canon of scripture’, btw) against which to evaluate my imaginative creations – my understandings of the world and my place in it. The world is never quite as I perceive it to be given the filters that are inborn and aquired over a lifetime. I may be pretty close at times, but never spot on. This awareness demands of me humility before all things – people, ideas, and creation itself – and particularly God. The experiences that typically jolt me back to this humility are often frustrating and painful – it usually takes some pain to rouse us from our sleepy complacency. Just look at how the economic challenges of the last several years have prompted us to reconsider our relationships to all things money – working, saving, investing, spending. “Wow, I guess it isn’t good for me to consistently spend more than I earn.” Duh. And yet, so many of us do that, in our financial lives, and even more in our emotional, intellectual, physical health, and spiritual lives. We make up a version of reality that suits what we want to do, and then deficit-spend, never imagining that the bottom may someday drop out of our city in the clouds. This is what happens in most failed marriages, in nearly every self-induced health crisis, in psychological nervous breakdowns, in parenting that fails to guide children toward maturity, in collapsed social institutions and structures of every kind.
And, what I think I am discovering today (at least it is a discovery for me – kind of like Christopher Columbus ‘discovering’ ‘america’) – what I think I am discovering today is that all of this is at least partly an expression of our creative imaginative spirit, what for me theologically is a part of God’s image in us – and thus uncontainable even if deniable. We are made to imagine and create. So, if we do not let ourselves do that in truly constructive, life-giving, ways, then that spirit will be diverted to less helpful pursuits.
THEREFORE, one way to move ourselves, individually and communally, out of misinterpretaionality, is to return to those creative pursuits of preschool. Get out the finger paints, the clay, the crayons. Make mud pies. Dance. Sing. Tell stories. Dream. God dreams of a future for us that is bountiful, a future where there is no sorrow, where we no longer harm ourselves or one another, where no one is lonely or hungry. And God desires to share that dream with us, to tell us about it, and then to help us live toward it. This is the purpose of the Gospel, of the Incarnation, of Jesus. The story of the garden toward the East, in Eden
, is the story of God’s original dream. The story of the glorious city yet to come
, where God dwells among humanity, is God’s dream of the future. Let us be shaken from our false dreams, awake to the people around us, and the God among and with us, and live into God’s glorious dream wide awake.