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Failure of the Imagination? 30 November 2013

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings, Theology.
Tags: , , , ,

Every so often I encounter someone who states that they couldn’t imagine their life without something or someone. I suspect you have too. To say that you could not imagine life without x is a failure of the imagination. Whether that x is God, your partner, your children, your treasured possessions or whatever else.

Sometimes I wonder why I speak a little about Jesus, what with me being a Christian minister and all that. The simple fact is that the presence and power of the Risen Christ is a given; deeply rooted within who and what I am. (apparently that is something to do with my Myers-Briggs Personality Type as an ENTJ, for what it’s worth!) Despite that rooting though, I cannot truly say that I cannot imagine life without faith. I can. I can see, or feel, how I or anyone else might get there, simply as a function of empathy and imagination. Likewise if I were to say that I cannot imagine life without my wife. I probably speak more about her than Jesus, but nevertheless without her support and love I would be diminished & weaker. It does not remove the fact that I can imagine at least something of the impact upon my life were she to be absent. The same applies to the presence of my children. In fact, as a new parent I used to get rather cross at all those other preening new parents whose method of coping with the exhaustion of sleepless nights or trips out that seemed to involve carrying a hundredweight of spare clothes, food, nappies and all the other accoutrements was, “but you couldn’t imagine life without them, could you?” Call me callous and selfish (I do), but I certainly could!

The truth is that so often when we say that we cannot imagine life without something or somebody, we are actually saying we do not want to imagine that. I have no evidence to hand to back up this assertion, but I strongly suspect it to be the case for the vast majority of people, certainly those immersed within a culture that feeds imagination and the desire for more, for change. Or is that my imagination running away with me?

We are created in the image of God, according to classical Christian understanding. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” runs part of the creation myths of Genesis chapter 1 (verse 27).  We possess a share of the creativity that formed the world and brought it into being, Thus to deny our imagination is to deny our nature. Jesus, himself, in adapting and adopting the accepted formularies of his times, commended those who heard him to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). That is, to love God with everything you are, have and can be, your whole self.

We can and must treasure and use our imagination. We can and must dream and explore that which could be, that which will bring greater good and joy into the world. We can and must accept and explore those ideas which cannot or might not be, those “what if?”s of our creativity, whose exercise is a reflection of the divine nature within us. And we can and must be prepared to imagine the unacceptable, especially within those life situations that are beyond our control. I may not like to think about what would happen should my wife or children die, although our common mortality ensures that these events are absolute certainties (short of the fulfilment of the classic Christian doctrine of the Second Coming and the End of All Things… but that’s a different exercise of the imagination entirely!) At the very least I should have a Will prepared and have some thought for the morrow, even a most unpleasant one.

In fact, unbidden and unwilled, this exploration of the imagination, not just for the good bits, but also the bad, neatly draws matters to a close. Tomorrow, after all, is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the new Church Year, the countdown to the coming of Christ not only as sweet child of the manger but as bringer of Judgement and Doom (as indicated by pieces of Star Wars Lego to be removed from a brightly packaged cardboard box on a daily basis.)

And I shall imagine, but not fear, the Dark Side….



1. Jane Williams - 1 December 2013

Completely agree with you that imagining life without is not only possible, but important. If X were to vanish, how would I cope? What are the chances? What coping strategies should I prepare in advance? Sticking my fingers in my ears and going “la, la, everything’s going to be fine, it won’t happen to me,” is not a good life strategy.
But there’s also the case for imagining life without the *bad* things, and then using that imagination to work out how to get there. Sometimes the effort required, or the side-effects, means that it isn’t worth it, but there’s ways of achieving most things, if you use your imagination instead of just saying “impossible”.

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