Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Into Wonderland

Lu, in a recent entry on her Blog, asked if it were possible for one to
live with a foot in the real world and the other in Neverland. She wondered
what Neverland was like apart from the movie interpretations, if it could
be more wonderful than the pirates and man-boy of Disney popularization.

it's a common theme. Men who won't grow up are said to have a "Peter Pan
complex." I have been told many times that eventually I'd have to quit
imagining things and enter the real world. People who said such things were
the best argument for never giving up my imagination, so I stayed with C.S.
Lewis, Tolkien, Andre Norton and others.

The best way to keep imagination intact is to make sure no one knows you
have one. Imagine things but keep them in your mind. Write them down but be
very careful about who reads them. Do sand sculpture which is completely
revelatory but couched in a language opaque to most people and temporary

Another way is to let God give you the heart of a warrior and then quit
worrying what anyone thinks. Some of my co-workers mentioned this yesterday
after reading some of my Blog entries. "You put yourself out there for
everyone to see. The woman who said you have the heart of a warrior is

Life without imagination is intolerable. I've lived in the uneasy middle
ground between being practical and letting my imagination make life worth
living. Now I find myself more strongly convinced that imagination is one
very special aspect of human beings. God is immensely and fascinatingly
imaginative, and he said that we are made in his image. Whatever we have is
there because God put it there. For me to say I shouldn't be imaginative is
for me to become self-righteous and tell God what his creation should be

Any new thing starts with an idea in someone's mind. If I want a tool to
reach inside a sculpture and carve a particular kind of cut, I have to see
the need and imagine how to execute it. Then I have to design the tool so
that it can be made with the tools and equipment I possess, and then the
design has to inform my hands as I make it. If the new tool doesn't work I
have to figure out where I've failed and think about why I failed. Is the
failure due to not making the tool as it should have been, or is the job
itself impossible?

That we live in places more comfortable than caves and have hot water
running in pipes means that someone had these ideas and brought them to
reality. God doesn't give instructions about the minutiae of daily life.
We're free to improve things, and therein lies a problem. Do we really
need more cheap plastic toys? More highways? Do we need 4000 square foot
houses to replace 2500 square foot ones? It's like the problem engendered
by the Macintosh and its desktop publishing tools: just because you now
have access to 1001 typefaces doesn't mean you have to use them all in one

Imagination gets me into trouble by suggesting new ways, that might be
better than the old, to do things. When the new way messes things up,
imagination rescues me by helping me find a way to fix the problem.
Eventually the new way become established, and then is taught by rote as
the only way. Imagination is buried in the detritus that exfoliates from
its success until some truly creative person comes along and manages to
introduce another new way. At one time it was believed that to go faster
than 60 miles per hour would be to die.

Our world has never seen a whole lot of people get together to find out
what kind of creative trouble the Holy Spirit can cause. What kind of world
could we make if we quit following the world's rules and started following
God's spirit?

It's easy to say. I, however, tremble in fear whenever God gets close
enough to me to whisper hints of what he wants to do in my life. I settle
into my comfortable rut, near enough to God to stay alive, but at enough
distance that I can cruise along in comfortable semi-isolation. No great
joy, but no tears either. This probably makes God very sad.

The inside is much, much bigger than the outside. Wonderland is inside, and
it is huge. I'm sort of making short forays away from the bank of the
Jordan instead of bounding into the high country beyond. Farther up,
farther in. Let the imagination loose. God Himself will take care of the
real world! But the implications of that are so enormous that I quail. My
warrior heart needs enlargement, from pea-size to perhaps grape-size.

We should be encouraging each other to have big ideas. Go exploring. Find
new territory, new wonders, find out who God really is and what his land is
really like. But I never talk about this because I've faced so much
criticism. "You can't do that," They say. Well, God, I believe, says

And yet we need rest also. When does rest turn into complacency? Another
experiment. I figure God is big enough to tell me when to move on. And,
friends, I am tired. As I drove home from work today I could barely keep my
eyes open. Haven't been sleeping well, caught on the sharp point of this
dilemma. One part of me trusts God to keep me moving in the right
direction, part of me drives me on with a whip so that God won't be upset
with my sloth, and part of me just cowers in fear when he looks forward to
coming lessons. I'd rather sleep through it, which feeling usually means
I'm doing something wrong. God wants my eyes open, but only he can give me
the courage to do that... and frankly, I'd rather not care.

That's what keeps us out of Wonderland. Not caring. I have much to learn.

2004 December 22

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