Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fantasy vs. Imagination

This week I have been taking a class on worship from a leadership perspective. We've covered everything from how to pray in public to major musical movements of the past two centuries. Even though I've been dreading this class all summer, I have to say that it has been one of my favorite classes in seminary thus far. Since I've been going to this class all day everyday for a week, I think I'll be unpacking all the information I've heard for the next year. At least.

Today, we talked a little about the difference between fantasy and imagination. Maybe I'm not a deep enough thinker, but I've never really sat down to think about the difference. Fantasy is personal. It's what I want for me. The world we live in is good at encouraging and fulfilling fantasies. Cities like Las Vegas base their economy on the human need to fulfill fantasy. Not all fantasies are bad. They can help set goals at times, but a person that spends too much time daydreaming fantasies becomes narcissistic and is generally not a pleasant person to be around.

Imagination, on the other hand, has to do more with society. We imagine how we want things to be, how they should be, how they can be. Imagination put to the test becomes reality. Someone imagined the light bulb and now I can stay up until all hours of the night reading for school (or, more likely, watching TV).

This is the kicker though: not all imagination is good either. There is carnal and sacred imagination. Carnal imagination says something like this: "I will experience as wide of a variety of situations as I can in order to take in every stimulus possible, then I will see what comes out." The problem is that carnal imagination can ultimately lead to the destruction and distortion of beauty. If you've ever walked through an art gallery and seen images that struck you as not quite right, you'll understand what I'm saying. If you've studied the Holocaust, you've seen the very real results of someone's carnal imagination on a global scale.

Sacred imagination, on the other hand, says "I will take in things that are beautiful and good, the things that Jesus would like, and see what happens." This kind of imagination leads to paintings you want to stare at all day, music that moves you to tears, books that you can't seem to put down, and the best solution to problems. The things that come out are things that Jesus would like.

My point? I was sitting there in class wondering about my sacred imagination. If I immersed myself in those things that are beautiful, that honor Christ, whether it be books, music, or that after-school program down the street, what would come out? What solutions to problems would God plant in my imagination?

Understand this: I don't want to turn a blind eye, in the name of focusing on beauty, to the very real problems that surround me. That would be escapism, which is a plague among Christians and ticks God off. But what if we made an effort to take in beautiful things and spend some time with the One who made beauty itself? What divine things would come out?