Imagination as an Antidote to Insanity

My wife and I had the privilege of participating in our oldest son’s homeschool graduation ceremony this past weekend.  Each of the six graduates and their parents had 8 minutes each to show their video montage of photos and make any remarks.  So our son chose the song “Into the West” by Annie Lennox [choking back tears… proud father of LotR fan] and my wife and I chose enough photos to fill up about 3 minutes.  That left us with about 5 minutes to make our remarks as his parents.  So I wanted to say something more than the standard “we’re so proud of you and love you.”  SinWhat can you see on the horizonce we give people charges when they enter into a new office in life, I thought it’d be appropriate to give him a charge at this boundary between boyhood and the “office” of manhood.  I hope this manuscript of my charge to my son may challenge you young Christian men out there as you begin to carve your path forward, a path of loyalty to the King of kings.

I imagine you might have an opinion as to whether our culture has gotten a little crazier since you first started school thirteen years ago.  So as you have begun stepping out into that culture as your own man, I wanted to give you a charge to carry with you.  But I don’t really need to lay out a bunch of facts and data.  All the facts and data and number-crunching programs we have at our finger tips and our culture still seems like it’s the kind of crazy that talks to the trees and licks the walls.

Think about the hallowed halls of higher learning – colleges and universities.  They are places full of doctors and data, future philosophers and investment bankers in training.  But colleges and universities are chock full of crazy, are they not?

Son,  you know I’m not being anti-intellectual here.  I’m not charging you to swear off higher education.  We kind of need reason and logic for this life.  You’re going to need analytical skills for those future college classes and the various jobs you’ll hold over the years.  This is why we’ve sought to train you in these things so far and why we think college can be a valuable next step.

But what is the antidote to all the crazy out there?  How can you inoculate yourself against our culture’s craziness so you don’t end up barking at the moon or wearing one of those funny white jackets that make you hug yourself?  Well, what helped really smart, logical, data-crunching, philosophical people not go insane in the past?  What about Friedrich Nietzsche?  He was brilliant in his own way.  Well… never mind about him.  He actually did go crazy.  What about Albert Einstein?  He was a genius.  A physicist, mathematician, kind of a big deal.  Well, Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge… Knowledge is limited but imagination encircles the world.”  Imagination?!   Imagine that.

But did Einstein have any company?  One of Einstein’s contemporaries, G. K. Chesterton, one of C.S. Lewis’s biggest influencers said something similar: “Imagination does not breed insanity.  Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.  Poets do not go mad… Mathematicians go mad…  The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in.  The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.  It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.  And it is his head that splits.” (Orthodoxy, chapter titled “The Maniac”)

So, as you enter into the wild and wooly world of adulting, remember this: the secular world will offer you a head full of knowledge and data, but there’s no poetry at the heart of the secular world.  Secularism is ultimately, at its heart, a failure of imagination.

So I charge you today to remember that at the heart of all things is a Person.  If you can manage to imagine that and keep that before your mind’s eye, then you’ll get all the facts right AND all the poetry and imaginative release that makes life worth living.  The apostle John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.  The apostle Paul tells us Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  So Jesus is both the Word of God and the Icon of God.  He is the ultimate platform for all logic and order, but He is also the deepest well for our imaginations to plunge into.

Jesus comes and teases our imagination.  God becomes man and somehow doesn’t stop being God.  He really dies and somehow never ceases to be the living God.  He comes back to life and is somehow greater after death than He was before.  And our minds are blown.  But it’s those with stunted imaginations who go running for cover, or possibly… they’ll come to you with their questions.

So when some professor or some internet troll tries to “reason” you out of your faith, or when your co-workers laugh at the Bible or try to belittle your faith, you can wink at them as if you know something they don’t.  You can do so because you know that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is a hard fact of history AND that Jesus is a person of mythical proportions all at the same time.  But that kind of paradox is okay, because, as Chesterton once said, “Paradox is truth standing on its head to gain attention.”

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