I just read this post on a blog I really like and it got me thinking about the idea of imagination as our capacity to enter the world of another.
The author of the blog talks about how she’s making a conscious effort to slow down and to “walk alongside into the dark alley” of her children’s minds. It sounds a bit weird out of context, but trust me, its not!
In recent times, I’ve been thinking about my place as the youngest in my family and how, on reflection, I’ve realised that my immediate family’s strong point was not to allow my artistic sensibilities/emotional sensitivity the space I needed it to have.
A quick example… At the age of about 9, or maybe younger, my grandmother moved out of the house my mum had grown up in and that had a significant place in my young heart. A fleeting moment on the stairs with my eldest sister: “Where will all the memories go?” I said (and can still feel the wistfulness with which I spoke), “Don’t be ridiculous” she replied “The memories will go with us!” She was right, but…
There’s something about that original blogpost which helped me see that the “sticky plaster” of such a quick response to my inner world was indicative of a whole way of interacting that was teaching me to keep the doors closed, rather than inviting me to throw back the bolts and fling wide what God had given me to bring to his world. It taught me that those intimate stirrings of my imagination and empathy were not welcome and perhaps even Bad. And I did NOT want to be Bad.
Furthermore, when the intimate imaginings concerned are fears, like in the blog, a failure to “walk alongside” in that dark alley only reinforces that the alley must be walked alone and that it really is to be feared.
Someone I respect and trust recently suggested that I may need to consider the role fear is playing in my life. I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘fearful person’, and I’m not sure I am in the way that I usually understand that phrase, plus I’m not currently in a situation that I consider “normal” on which to judge that. But what I DO know is that I often talk about my fears; the words “I’m scared that…” are often on my lips. Whether they are on my lips more than on your average person’s lips is hard to tell.
All I know is that when I outwardly express the fears that exist in the inner world of my imagination, I am not looking for quick-fix “Oh don’t be silly, of course not, it’ll all be fine”. Partly because sometimes in this broken world, our fears are well-founded and sometimes will come to pass despite all efforts to live the fairytale ever after. But mostly because I want some company in the alley. I want someone to hold my hand as I look the beast in the eye, to consider its heights and depths with me and to enter my world and say “I understand”.
Then we can talk about the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘probably nots’.
It takes time and effort to do this, you see. Its rarely our first inclination. Especially when it comes to fears or suffering – we can be pretty quick off the mark with the spiritual sticky-plaster platitudes. Consider for one moment, however, an eternal God taking the time and effort to grow through nine months of incubation, babyhood, infancy, puberty and so on in order to illustrate – in full-colour, high-definition, flesh and blood visuals – a firmly resounding “I understand”.
And I think a little bit of Brian would not go amiss here.