Sunday, September 09, 2007

Recovering the Imaginative: Preserve Childhood

I write frequently to refute the assumption that children are innocent. Christians know from God's Holy Word that children are born sinners, and rebels against God. There is no such think called "child-like innocence." But, nonetheless, children, like all human beings, are made in the image of God and as such have His imprint stamped upon them. And this is clearly seen in the imagination of a child.

As the imagination has slipped away from culture I believe it is in part due to the rapid acceleration of children into adolescence. Neil Postman has written an entire work detailing "The Disappearance of Childhood." One part of the book speaks about the need for kids to have spontaneous, self-organized and self-controlled games. Postman writes:

There is no more obvious symptom of the merging of children's and adults' values and styles than what is happening with children's games, that is to say, they are disappearing. While I have found not studies that document the decline of unsupervised street games, their absences is noticeable enough and, in any case, can be inferred from the astonishing rise of such institutions as Little League baseball and Pee Wee football...the games of American youth have become increasingly official, mock-professional, and extremely serious...The idea that children's games are not the business of adults has clearly been rejected by Americans, who are insisting that even at age six, children play their games without spontaneity, under careful supervision, and at an intense competitive level.

The point that Postman is making here is that kids should not play this way, they have their own way of playing which is distinctly related to their age and nature as children. In relation to this series on the imagination that I have been doing there is a great parallel. The child-like play which Postman only barely scratches is closely connected to the innate imagination that children have. Children should play spontaneously because it reveals and explores their creativity and their imaginations.

To recover the imagination in our culture we have to allow Children to play, and we, as adults, have to watch them play and learn from them. For many adults, their own imagination is long gone. It has been rubbed out by realism and naturalism, by viewer's choice news, and pop-culture entertainment. To recover it we need to take notes on our kids. Listen to them tell stories, and watch them play. Watch little boys re-enact scenes from The Swiss Family Robinson , and follow little girls into the dinning hall of the Queen of Fairy land, where she sips tea with her teddy bears (the conversations will, I am sure, delight you).

The recovery of imagination is important for our culture. I have argued that it can point us back to the truth in powerful and affecting ways, and it can bring us closer to the divine. But it has been largely lost and one of the ways that we can begin to recover it is through our children. Let your kids be kids, and then you too enter into their world for a fresh view on life, and learn from their imaginations!

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