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.