Saturday, September 08, 2007

Recovering the Imaginative: Read

If the imagination has been on the decline among Evangelical Christianity, and in our culture at large, how can we help the process of recovery that has been slowly returning? The answer is, I believe, three-fold, and the first step is to read good fiction.

It won't take much convincing for you to agree that good fiction is replete with the imaginative. Scenes, characters, events, and other elements of fiction reveal the glorious world of the imagination before us. Poetry is marked by the comparison of lovers to flowers and sunsets (odd comparisons in reality, but just perfect in the imagination). Stories often end with unrealistic events and adventures, and with good guys saving the day and bad guys dying. Drama compresses great lengths of time. And even realist fiction revels in the moral lesson learned from suffering and tragedy. Great examples of imagination in fiction include: Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (which uses almost every literary convention you could conceive of), C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Homer's Odyssey , John Milton's Paradise Lost, William Shakespeare's A Mid Summer's Night Dream, and Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

English Literature, of which I am most familiar with, has a long history of world play. That is there is a legacy of the imagination to be found in English literature, most of which in some form or fashion shaped nearly every writer in the Western world. C.S. Lewis himself was strongly influenced by both Edmund Spenser and Thomas Malroy. Inspiration to be imaginative comes largely from seeing it done well. And reading is particularly helpful in instilling imagination in us because we must picture the scenes in the book ourselves. If the author creates a magical world with his words and describes the scene vividly for us, as most of the authors listed above do, then our imaginations cannot help but take flight and create their words in images. Reading, then, doesn't just demonstrate good imagination and creativity, it invites us into it and we partake and experience that imagination!

So to recover the imaginative, read good fiction!

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