By Ian Dingwall
Published: March 2007
Related Topics: Scripture
Words of an old 1940's Frank Sinatra song have been humming away in my mind recently: "Imagination is funny/It makes a cloudy day sunny/Makes a bee think of honey/Just as I, think of you"
The song came to mind as I thought about the meaning of the word Imagination; and what it says to us and calls us to. The lyricist doesn't do justice to the word simply telling us that Imagination is funny. Imagination is far more than funny or nostalgic.
Albert Einstein's face appears on a large poster with the underneath caption that declares,
"Imagination is more important than Knowledge." That gets closer to the inside of the word. Imagination more important than mere knowledge--and that is from a person who became the twentieth century's symbol of knowledge. Now, what has that to do with us, do you think?
For starters, the Bible is a book of imagination. We ought not to think of Scripture as primarily a long list of rules and regulations, or simply of events that had importance 4000 or just 2000 years ago. Instead we ought to understand our Scriptures, and why we read them so methodically week by week, as something we use to light and fuel our Imaginations.
Sadly it appears that Imagination is in short supply these days. Modern people seem more attracted to facts and figures. We are more intrigued by the solidness of Facts than the subtlety of Symbol.
And our stance or bias towards one or other of these points of view is often the root cause of many arguments and disagreements. That is, some of us are entrenched in facts alone while others look primarily to symbol and metaphors.
Clergy hear the accusation that, because our vocation and work is "in the church", we are not living in the real world. It makes me angry to be dismissed in that erroneous manner.
Of course, when a person starts with the assumption that 'real' refers only to that which can be touched or tasted, then reality shrinks our expectations of life. What we are capable of being and doing gets automatically scaled down to what is considered the basics.
Let's consider this for a moment. Neil Postman, a professor of culture and society at New York University, has quite a lot to say about this. He views our current preoccupation with computers as evidence of our poverty of imagination. And he argues that the modern world has convinced itself that we have in fact a scarcity of facts and that our need is "more data."
To the declaration that we need more data, Postman replies, "Isn't that what our leaders in business and government--he could have added the Church--tell us to explain their reluctance to respond to pressing social problems?" he asks and then continues to caricature the situation by stating, "We're waiting for more facts to come in. More facts, that's our need. And we simply end up inventing more efficient computers to supply massive amounts of information that we just shuffle about on our desks or send off across the world on what we call the Information Highway."
Postman concludes, "We don't need more data. We have more now than we can handle or consume. What modern society is dying of is lack of courage, lack of dreams, a failure of nerve and no computer can give us that. There may come a day when computers will be able to do even more than they are capable of now--to speak or even to think. But never to dream!"
Why does this stimulate me so much? Simply because I think that the Church has a problem here too. We so often adhere to the slogan of policeman Joe Friday--remember the television series Dragnet ?--who constantly admonished the people he was questioning with, "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts."...
Your donation will help us thrust the Niagara Anglican into the future - communicating the Gospel and the good news of our Anglican tradition to generations to come.