Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Re-imagining imagination

It was a thought in a moment more than a tangible experience. More free write than long-thought-out words.

What is imagination?

Imagination, when I was a child, was the vehicle through which I lived a more interesting life. I don’t remember boredom growing up. I inhabited this fertile land of my own creation. I could try on different personalities, attempt things I would normally be afraid to try, live in places or times I could never visit. I was entirely in control of the story in my imaginary world. In this way, I learned creativity, but also, how to live anywhere but in the present moment, for the present moment was rarely as satisfying as what lay in my  imagination. The irony is, looking back, through this kind of imagining I learned contentment as a child and the exact opposite as a young adult.

Imagination morphed from a harmless childhood exercise to escape.

What does imagination reclaimed look like as an adult?

It’s taken years to unlearn this expression of imagination-as-defense-mechanism, as an adult, and only through tragedy and loss. Only through experiencing lack of control over many life events. Imagination has morphed, very gradually, into something that is not my own creation - a story according to my will - but the creative response to what has been given me.

I cannot entirely write my own story, but I can write my response to the unexpected.

Even the greatest authors will say they must surrender to the greater story being told; they cannot force something to become that is not where the story is destined to go. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, they must let go of their outlines, of certain plots. They must let characters grow to become more complex than they imagined. They must, at times, let some beloved characters die.

Maybe, in this way, imagination is fullness, is complexity, is letting go, is redemption. Imagination is a tiny seed falling to the ground and dying, spilling over, spreading life. 

Imagination is resurrection. I try this out on my tongue, and it feels both familiar and ethereal.

Imagination is not safe or comfortable, but wild, like the nature of God.

In marriage, in singleness, in friendships, in conflict, in race and gender and culture, in politics and religion and art- what is imagination, if not something ultimately full of life, complex, surrendered, resurrected, redeemed?

I don’t know, yet, how to write this from the abstract into a thousand simple, everyday examples. But I know this: my belief in imagination must begin with a change of definition if it is to produce the fruitful life I desire.

I ask myself, is imagination in my marriage, for example, pretending it’s something it is not, or believing, ultimately, it can become something greater than what I see?

This feels unnerving, daring, hopeful, courageous, terrifying. But it seems right, too. It’s a subtle shift of paradigm that can move mountains.

And I long to see mountains move, don’t you?

Maybe, in this place, imagination is also faith. No longer The Pretend versus The Real, but the truest thing of all. That which we cannot see yet, and perhaps won’t in our lifetime, but still believe is possible.

* * * *

Joining Heather


  1. This is beautiful Amber. Using imagination to see the hope of something bigger around the corner as opposed to using it as an escape from the now.

    1. I've missed you, Karmen. It made my heart happy to 'see' your words here today. Thank you - and thinking of you often.

  2. Came across this post. :)
    I really liked it! You really put meaning into imagination! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, I learned something today! :) I love how you connected it to faith at the end, I totally agree. I constantly find myself thinking of what life after death will be like or, Why am I hear on Earth, etc. And I seem to always imagine great things that are to come, and it really does bring me comfort! I would love to share some of my beliefs with you, it really means a lot to me and I feel like you may agree!
    Thanks again for this wonderful insight!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. I'm thankful these words I wrote connected with you and some of those huge questions you ponder about life, death and meaning. It is comforting, isn't it, to hold out hope for the greater things that are to come? To imagine more than what we can see, what we can reason, what we have experienced. I hope to see you around here more, sharing your thoughts on life.

  3. Very interesting post to read. I haven't thought about the transition of my child hood imagination to my adulthood imagination.

    1. You know, I hadn't really thought much of it, either, until it kind of "hit" me. It's fun when that happens...

  4. Amber, this is so insightful and profound. I've never considered this, but I love what you say about imagination as resurrection, about adult imagination growing into not escape, really (unsatisfied with this life), but as both a letting go and picking up the truth we will believe about what we are living. I so enjoyed wandering down these roads with you and wish we could sit long and talk about all this. It stirs something really deep for me this morning. As I've said so many times, I simply love how you see.

    1. Girl, don't you know how much I wish this, too? To sit long and talk about all this, to hear about your stirrings, to see what you're 'seeing.' I look forward to the next breakfast... I hope it's not that far off in the future. xoxox