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Order Through Imagination

I want to have written the story that changes peoples’ lives, not write it!

Oh, it’s not about the fame and fortune, nor about the accolades and acclaim. I just want people to read what I write and see themselves in it, only better. I want them to see their family members in a new light or their lives go in a new direction, their circumstances navigable and what now seems impossible, possible.

The problem is, writing it always comes before having written it and, very truly I tell you, what comes before all of that is living it. This is the problem with writing from imagination, it’s real. And finding the truth there is hard. But it is the magic of letting one’s mind wander to far off places, filled with random characters and creatures. Except it’s not random at all. It’s ordered.

That’s the paradox of imagination: we restore order through imagination. We put things to rest, explain the confounding and often re-write the ending we wished for but that never came to be. So much comfort.

But is that fantasy? Is it escapism? Are we avoiding the truth?

Mary Poppins and childrenI don’t think so. In fact, it may be the best way to approach the truth. First, with beauty and aesthetics, re-creating the real draws us in and makes us smile. How brave is that boy! How insightful is that girl. How ingenious is that Nanny. Oh, and so fun! Yep, Mary Poppins it is, and how delightful is that “Disney ending.”

But life doesn’t consist of Disney endings. Get real!

What if the real requires imagining? Consider,

I believe our task is to develop a moral and aesthetic imagination deep enough and wide enough to encompass the contradictions of our time and history, the tremendous loss and tragedy as well as greatness and nobility, an imagination capable of recognizing that where there is light there is shadow, that out of hubris and fall can come moral regeneration, out of suffering and death, resurrection and rebirth. 

Not just an aesthetic imagination but a moral one? With the one we create what might be. With the other, we consider what God might have meant. Put the two together, and it has the power to change lives.

I want to have written the story that changes people’s lives, but that one’s taken. Now, to consider what God might have meant.

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