A blog about imaginative learning
When I was a kid my father would take out the “invisible book” as we were going to bed. He added a bit of drama to it as well and pretended to pull it out of his head and open it up. He told us stories of a giant named Stumbles, a clumsy giant who always came to the aid of a kid in need. We enjoyed these times with dad, because there was something magical that took place. Something wonderful about a giant who was powerful enough to save us no matter what.
The imagination is an amazing and magical thing--whether it be storytelling to kids at bedtime, or a genius artist like a Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. We have this uncanny knack as humans to bring something into this world which was not there before. Granted we do not create it out of nothing. We have to use the materials around us, and the ideas, memories, and dreams we have in our minds and hearts. But we are made in the image of a creator, and so we can co-create with him, adding to the magnificence of this world and human life. We can bring forth all sorts of ideas, stories, crafts, etc... But of all the things to which the imagination can give life, I believe Hope is the most powerful.
Like the old legend of Pandora’s Box, there are many hideous and monstrous things that can come out of the imagination, but there's one thing that comes out which has the power to save, and that something is Hope. The ancients believed that Hope had an almost magic power to it-- that it could be mankind’s sword and shield against the monstrous things of this world, even the hideous reality of suffering and death. We humans see plenty of those two monsters in this life, whether it be a disease, loss of a job, malicious and violent attacks, the death of a loved one, or our own death.
The reality of this life is that something is very wrong with the world. Not to say that there aren’t many beautiful things, like life-giving love, charity, beautiful places and inspiring experiences, health and well-being. But even in the midst of those things, we all are going to die. No matter who we are, how wealthy and popular, or powerful we have been in our life, that is the one monster we cannot escape.
And yet...even in the face of the most powerful monster of them all (death) we have a weapon: Hope. Hope once again is the sword and shield we are given. And it is the imagination that helps us see more clearly this great defense. One of the most beautiful examples of imagination and hope in modern cinema is the film Life is Beautiful. A poor Jewish Italian family is taken away by the Nazi’s to a concentration camp. The father, played by Roberto Begnini, is a jovial man, full of good cheer and imagination. He knows that they will most assuredly die. And towards the beginning of the film, his wife and he are separated by the soldiers. So, in prison, it is just him and his son. Soon he realizes that if his son knows what this is all about, he could become as depressed as everyone else around them. So, the father creates an imaginary world. He pretends that this is all just a game, and that the Nazis are playing the villain, and they have to play the strong courageous heroes to win. And he adds the winner wins a tank! Well, his son is very excited for this game, and so he and his father play along, trying to win. This is a film where you will laugh and then cry in the same scene, for the father is denying the temptation to despair by playing the fool for his son--to give him hope, and thus to give him joy.
Imagination is incredibly powerful. It has the power to reframe a situation and our life so that we are acting with purpose. And though as some believe, it may be a risk: to act in a way inspired by hope, it’s a risk worth taking for it is in hope that we are saved. (Romans 8:24)
Why did God allow for suffering? Why did God allow hate? And why did He permit death? These are all questions the human imagination has sought to make sense of since the Fall. Many people in incredibly difficult situations, where sorrow, suffering, and death are all around them, can fall prey to despair, for they do not see the greater epic story they are in, the story that actually does have a happy ending-the Great Story of love conquering evil, and opening up the gates of heaven to all. But even in the midst of the darkest times, those times that seem like all the monsters of Pandora’s box have come out and are wreaking havoc on the world, there will always be something stronger, like a giant who comes to our rescue in the darkest hour, and that is Christ our true and only Hope.