Use your Imagination
(Especially when it comes to the sacred and the spiritual!)
There is something incredibly powerful about good fiction, yes? The craft of it. The story itself. And the imagination required to make it come alive.
I have a long and torrid love-affair with imaginative writing; an infinite and ever-expanding list of “sacred” texts:
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
- The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.
- And despite my disappointment in J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter.
I could easily and endlessly go on…
What is it, do you think, that makes these novels, these texts, more permissive of imagination than traditional sacred texts?
Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts.
Many of us have been taught to think about sacred or spiritual things (and texts) as “absolute truth.” Concepts are concretized and imagination is, for the most part, disallowed.
My go-to example is the Genesis story: The Garden of Eden. Eve and Adam. The tree. The serpent. The fruit. The bite. It is an imaginative answer to the question of why (not how) the world was created. No committee or panel of experts sat down to write it. No one debated about what should be included or not, what was allegory and what was literal, what was to become rigid rule vs. remaining narrative technique. It was first imagined, then recited, then recited again. It changed every time it was told based on the storyteller’s imagination, perspective, mood, language, and audience. As every good story should!
Somehow though, over time, this story (a poem, actually) became a text and the text became a treatise and the treatise became a theology and the theology became something to enforce. (This sounds a lot like the nursery rhyme, “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…”)
Even though I know exactly how all of this happened, it breaks my heart.
What happens when our imagination is no longer encouraged, even allowed as it…