My wife and her best friend have been reading the books that the movie Twilight was based on, and it made me think about the kind of entertainment we are drawn to.  My wife and I are both passionate about different things – she about passionate romance and meaningful relationships, and me about bravery and fighting for good causes.  I find it interesting that we are both drawn to certain media (video games, movies, books) that feature these themes.

While my wife reads Twilight, I am currently playing Fallout 3, a video game that is full of fighting and moral choices, a dreamworld for me.  I am also reading Cherryh (science fiction) which involves a war between humans and aliens on other planets – way cool.

I thought a long time ago about being drawn to these things.  Why is this?  In my wife’s case- how is it possible anymore to have a passionate romance with very young children who constantly need your attention?  In my case, how can I get out a gun and go fight the bad guys and be brave when I have a family and a wife that takes top priority?

The answer is that we can’t – neither my wife or I – experience what our hearts desire in reality at the moment.  I can’t be that brave person I read about in my books, and watch in movies, or play-act in video games.  If I had the opportunity to fight or to be brave, I would, but I don’t, so I sit here dreaming, wishing that my life might include these opportunities sometime in the future.

I believe that God creates desires in us, not to torture us, but because they are intended to be one day consummated.  But I don’t understand why my chance has not yet come to step up to what means so much to me.  Why the wait?

After thinking about this a great deal, I think there is something more important then performing a brave act or fighting for a good cause, or experiencing a passionate romance – and that is the refinement of my character.  My character is the raw material and the essential tool for the work of being brave and fighting for what is right, or being in a love relationship.  When the opportunity comes, will my character be ready?  At this point, I would have to say no.   I have far too many character flaws.

It took the Apostle Paul 15+ years to be prepared for God’s commission to be an apostle to the gentile nations.  It took Moses 70 years as a shepherd until he led his people out of Egypt.   The building of character is a time-consuming process, but one that I know that God is intimately involved with. To be honest though, character-building is painful, boring, and at times, exhausting.

But in the meantime, what should I do with these desires and dreams that cannot be fulfilled now?  I imagine that they do – I continually take part in some mythical story by video game or reading or watching a movie.

In this respect, I think imagination is the key to character building.  It provides an exciting scenario of the end results of hard training and boring work – a chance to use my character in the face of some great challenge or obstacle that I was intended to do from the beginning.  One day I will have a chance to be brave, until then, I will learn, day by day, to not loose my temper, not to be selfish, and to not do the other actions that originate from a myriad of other character flaws that I suffer from.

I see in many video games today complex moral dilemmas in the actions you take.  Often times it is recommended to do the selfish thing or evil thing because it is more fun.  What I don’t like is to be engrossed in a world where selfishness is considered by its designers as morally right to the point where doing good is reduced to being do-goody or silly.  But at the same time, given choices to do wrong further makes the imagining of doing something right more rewarding.  I have a choice to do what is wrong, but instead choose to do what is right, the experience is more rewarding to my heart because my will was involved.  How can I enjoy doing right when I was not allowed to choose it?

But to the person who does not have God, imagination might serve another purpose.  Many of the science fiction books I have read and been inspired by have inspired them too.  Many of the video games I have played and enjoyed they have enjoyed too.  To watch a movie, read a book, or play a game in which the artificial world-view is left sufficiently open and mysterious, there lies the potential to be caught up in a narrative where beauty, hope, and meaning are real, and for just a moment (even a fleeting moment), before their own world-view reminds them that this is fantasy, they are caught up in a belief that they are truly important, and that their life is of great intrinsic value and has real meaning, and that there is more beauty and complexity to this world then they can possibly imagine.

So I believe imagination to be a spiritual entity.  For the ones who follow God, it is the fuel that draws them towards their heart’s desire, enabling them to develop discipline and character for the very purpose of [their desire’s] consummation.  For the ones who don’t, it awakens in them a picture of what the world and their lives would be like with if it had real hope, meaning, beauty, and real purpose.

    4 Responses to “Imagination”

    1. Todd

      This strikes me as a highly insightful observation, and well put too!

      Reply to this comment.
    2. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Thanks Todd!! Good to hear from you again!

      Reply to this comment.
    3. lisa

      This is fascinating.

      With someone who is highly imaginative/creative it can work a bit like fire, yes? It is powerful stuff. Very helpful, very useful, very important, and too, potentially very dangerous under in undesirable situations.

      How would you speak to the concept “perception is reality” regarding what you have laid out here? Is preparation reality, eventually?

      You really SHOULD write here more; every time you do, I think about it for days or weeks.

      Thanks, Jon.

      Reply to this comment.
    4. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Sorry for taking so long to reply. I do hope you catch this reply as well.
      You are very right to say that imagination is very powerful. Like physical beauty is to the beautiful, to the highly imaginative, it is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t know my degree of imagination, but I do know that I suffer from the curse as well as enjoy it’s blessing.

      The topic of perception always hits me from two angles, based mainly on my training and my philosophical historical reading. From an advertising perspective, it is said that truth/reality is meaningless, and perception is paramount in graphic design. From my philosophical reading of the 18th century, perception is all we can know, and reality is unknowable.

      Neither of these conclusions on perception do I find helpful. Both seem to be conclusions not useful for real living, but for making money or for painting an intellectual veneer over a skepticism with dubious motives, motives much less noble than a thirst for real truth.

      I believe perception to be defined as the internalized representation of outside reality, i.e. a belief. The question I think you may be asking (I may be wrong) is about that process that a right or wrong perception begins to manifest itself in a person’s real-world actions. I.E. if I believe myself to be stupid, I will begin to act like I am. In my life, I believed that deep down I was a hopelessly evil person, so I begin to stop caring about what was important and what was right by my choices in life and the actions I took. Now I’m doing the opposite – believing that I am deeply good because of what God has done to me, and that real internalized perception/belief is slowly transforming my outward actions and choices.

      So I would say that a perception does, over time, translate into reality. It seems a reality of being human that internal and external coherency must occur. The exception to this being addictive behaviors, of course. I cannot do something and believe it is wrong for long. Eventually I will either believe it is wrong and stop doing it, or continue doing it and justify it, and thus change my perception of reality.

      So into this mix, I add imagination. It is fire to my spiritual life.

      I imagine myself in the throne room of God. It is beautiful beyond description with the light of dusk filling the halls with a yellowing light. The thrown itself is empty, and instead at its foot is God holding me as I weep uncontrollably, grateful but too amazed that God can love me and treasure me so much.

      I remember this picture of God as I walk out the door of my office into the realm of my house and family, and then out the door of my house into the world I live in. I want to love others like God loves me. That picture of God holding me in his arms because I am too weak to even stand up haunts me, as often as I remember it. It begins to color my relationships and actions. Over time I am becoming a person who loves, not a person who is angry. I am a person who is truly important and beautiful – like all human beings, not a person who is evil and without hope.

      Imagination solidifies a perception, and that leads to likewise congruous actions in the real world.

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