As I launch my research into my next writing project, the burden of the world seems heavy. People are both oppressive and oppressed, you know? Life is a puzzle, a problem, a challenge…pick your word that describes the difficulty of things. It’s a war, it’s a highwire act, it’s a race. But it’s also a celebration, a party, and an adventure. If nothing else, it is an exercise in imagination.
Funny little word, imagination. Sometimes I forget about it. Last night it came back to me as I cooked dinner, sat and talked with Anjie and Julie, cleaned the kitchen, listened to a bit of Diana Krall, watched a movie, and wandered up to bed. Imagination. We imagine the world. We connect the dots of the facts and events we run into. We peer into the day and imagine we see all kinds of things, and the day will proceed in large part on the winds of what we imagine to be both true and possible. Is it a world of darkness or light? Sure, you can say both, and by saying it, you reveal that that is what you imagine, and that is the world you walk in. There are those that imagine the world is a dark, dark place, and their worlds are full of fear and travail, and the darkness they encounter confirms their imagined world and the light that filters is to be, at best, distrusted, and at worst, sworn to be a lie. There are others that imagine the world to be a place where light is always shining, always possible, and for them, those moments of light confirm their imagined world, and the darkness they encounter are cesuras, pauses, yet more opportunities for the light to be demonstrably present. And there will be gradations and shades of leaning according to how we imagine things to be.
But you protest, “These are the facts!” Facts are one things, stories about facts are another, and possibilities for new stories and changed facts are yet another. I am convinced that the human being is designed for the tension between facts and faith, and that how we navigate the bridge between the ending of facts and the beginning of faith is crucial to our days, our mortal lives, and whatever life we are to lead on the other side.
As I look out at the “facts” of our social existence, it is obvious that there is an imbalance of power all over the place. In economics, in owner/labor relations, in politics, in race relations, in education, in social classes, in gender relations–the list goes on and on. Relationships are flawed, we miss the mark, we do what we have to do to the other to get what we want. The suffering we cause to others when we play whatever card we must to win the argument, the race, or the war, is real and lasting. The desire for power is played out intimately and globally, between husbands and wives, and between nations. Even in win/win scenarios, someone usually wins more.
Maybe we can’t imagine a world where power plays aren’t needed. I suppose they’re needed because its human nature to want what we want, and it’s human nature to be “dragged away and enticed by evil desires.” That’s part of the world I imagine, at least, according to the imaginative world set forth by the book my faith turns to in order to get my bearings on faith-constructed reality.
Here’s the upshoot: I want to celebrate and chase after relational possibility. When I think of beauty and the presence of God, I think about it mostly in terms of relationship. In a word–love. It seems crazy, but at the center of love is a releasing of the will to power. To pick up a towel and serve is a relinquishing of the need for power. But of course, what we learn is that serving is the unleashing of a different kind of energy, a different kind of power.
It’s the old story of the wager between the Sun and the Wind, the two of them betting they could cause a man to take his coat off. The Wind tried to compel the man to take his coat off by blowing as hard as he could, which of course simply made the man grip it more tightly. The Sun beamed his warmth, and you know what happens next–the man takes off his coat.
In a world of power plays, it’s all about self-protection. In a world of serving and warmth, it could perhaps be about love, after all.
5 Replies to “Imagination and Power”
dear and divine…..truly wisdom post…… will read again …..
“I am convinced that the human being is designed for the tension between facts and faith, and that how we navigate the bridge between the ending of facts and the beginning of faith is crucial to our days…”
I really like this. Indeed, life seems to pivot upon just such a tension; Do I collect the facts and make intellectual decisions, or do I go on gut instinct and step out in faith knowing that somehow it will all bring glory to God?
“Here’s the upshot: I want to celebrate and chase after relational possibility. When I think of beauty and the presence of God, I think about it mostly in terms of relationship. In a word–love.”
“It’s the old story of the wager between the Sun and the Wind… The Wind tried to compel the man to take his coat off by blowing as hard as he could, which of course simply made the man grip it more tightly. The Sun beamed his warmth, and you know what happens next–the man takes off his coat.”
I join you in choosing to “chase after relational possibility.” And how I pursue those possibilities, for me, is like the Sun; it’s more of an invitation, a drawing toward one another, rather than forcing it as the Wind did.
Lew / firstname.lastname@example.org
“I am convinced that the human being is designed for the tension between facts and faith, and that how we navigate the bridge between the ending of facts and the beginning of faith is crucial to our days, our mortal lives, and whatever life we are to lead on the other side.” The trouble with you, Jeff, is that you challenge people to think! At least you challenge me. Where do facts end and where does faith begin? If my faith is not substantiated by fact, is it not just wishful thinking? Isn’t that what atheists think about our faith in God? Granted, our faith can be based on false gods, often made in the image of ourselves. The Hebrew writer (11:6) says, “And without faith it is impossible to please (fact?) Him (fact?), for he who comes (fact) to God (fact) must believe (faith) that He is (fact?), and that He is a rewarder (fact) of those who seek Him.” The Holy Spirit is one of the promised rewards to those who believe. Is He real or just a figment of the imagination? Paul said we will know each other by our fruit and he names that which comes from the flesh and that which comes from the Spirit. Even though the fruits are spiritual (good and bad), are they not factual and recognizable? (“scientific research” notwithstanding) Thanks for making me think, I think.
I love these thoughts. I don’t have a lot to add. As I was reading the last few paragraphs I thought about how the darkest moments in the history of Christianity (Crusades, inquisition, etc.) coincided with the times when Christian religious leaders had the most political power. I’m not sure how human society can exist without hierarchy, but it seems that few of us can escape the corrupting influences of this type of power.
I think your call to exchange the pursuit of power for a life of service is spot on.
Why aJeff, I mentioned this blog to a friend. She suggested the conflict is more between faith and reason than between faith and reality. I believe God is a fact, but I didn’t get to that place by reasoning. Maybe we couldn’t understand evil by reasoning, either. My Daddy once said we wouldn’t know anything about Satan if God hadn’t exposed him in the Bible. I hear all kinds of “reasons” why faith doesn’t make sense. Why be kind to someone who does you wrong? Why not fight evil with weapons of war? Reason says Jesus is out of date. He didn’t have the problems we have. Why tell the truth when you can get away with a lie–at least for a little while? This has been a rough day. I’ve been bombarded with thoughts of unworthiness and failure. Those are pretty reasonable thoughts. It is only by faith in what Jesus did on the cross and in the victory of his resurrection that I can accept “no condemnation” and begin again tomorrow.