Saturday, 30 October 2021

Revisiting the Imagination: A gift to help us find true 'life'

In the past week, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the imagination. It's a topic I've been exploring for over 30 years. I've just uploaded a post on another blog 'Literacy, Families and Learning' concerning how children access and help make sense of their world through stories. I've been writing my literacy blog since 2007, and it was and still is for a very broad audience of teachers, parents, librarians, literacy and Literature fanatics. Readers of the blog come from many nations. The majority are not Christians, and probably not people of faith at all; although a number from the Middle East, are believers in God. 


As I wrote the content I posted yesterday, I was reminded, that there is still much suspicion of the imagination and the power of stories in some religious circles. But, as well there is just as much suspicion of it pedagogically, the way we teach and encourage it in practice. There is also great misunderstanding of how it can be used as we learn; even amongst people of no faith! And yet, as I wrote in 'Pedagogy and Education for Life: A Christian Reframing of Teaching, Learning and Formation', God who himself is imaginative, made us as "creatures who can use our imaginations to understand his purposes for us" (p.122).


The imagination is not something that people of faith should find problematic. No, it is a gift from God! In my book, I quote another very helpful book by Veith and Ristuccia, titled 'Imagination Redeemed' which has much to which I say Amen! People of faith must reclaim the imagination at creation for the good purposes of our God. It isn't to be feared, except when used for ungodly purposes. We were gifted with the imagination to enhance our communication with one another, as we express our sense of wonder and surprise in those ‘aha’ moments of life, but also to communicate with one another (as does the novelist) to surprise and challenge us to look beyond ourselves to the one who made us, and all that was for our good. 


As I write in my book, the imagination is as an "intellectual activity of the mind that connects prior and new knowledge and experiences with our grasping after the unknown. It is part of the way we make sense of and respond to our world, but it also helps us to ponder the world beyond" (p.122).


If you are a teacher, or have your own children, you should not be afraid to stimulate their imaginations. Nor, should you see it as mere frippery; just something to encourage only after the 'real' study or work is done. No! The imagination is a gift of God to be embraced and used as we seek to know him and his plans for our lives. Never, of course as a way to dismiss what he teaches in his word; it is another way that he has gifted us. As my colleague (and namesake) Trevor Hart writes in 'Between the Image and the Word' in quoting Richard Kearney, the imagination is pervasive "a feature of our existence". 


Hart argues that the imagination is a critical part of our humanity, with many connections to the mundane and everyday activities of life. It can involve mental activities like “expecting, planning, exploring, fearing, hoping, believing, remembering, recognizing, analyzing, empathizing, loving, conjecturing, fantasizing, pretending,” as well as the more specialized creative activities of life that also reflect our ability to imagine. These include of course, language, art, literature, music, and invention.


In my literacy post published yesterday, I explored in detail the topic of Intertextuality, which in is in essence means, the interconnection between texts written and read. Such connections might affirm ideas, offer us new insights, or help us to grasp the depth of meaning of something in those “aha” moments, when another text challenges, inspires, or perhaps even create dissension. As Christian parents or teachers this might raise worries and concerns, but we must not fear the imagination. Instead as creative beings ourselves, we need to engage and discuss our imaginative interpretations and insights so they are accessible for evaluation, testing and the discerning of ultimate truth.