Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “imagination”

Hero Complex

I found myself in the uber nerd cars of the train on my way home Friday. Two guys discussed the merits of Superman. I dislike Superman. He bores me. Too much power, no real risk. Not much of a story. In fact I yawned typing that.

But these guys love Superman. For them the greatness of the story lies in his inability to save everyone. He can’t be beaten but he fails. And that drives him nuts, that he can’t save everyone.

A couple thoughts raced though my mind as I listened to this.

First, if am bored by limitless power, if that seems unattractive to me does that have any implications on my relationship with God. Am I bored with him?

I find myself fascinated with God and frequently surprised by him. Every miracle I experience or hear about feels like an amazing story. Maybe that’s because I hear it form the perspective of the people in need, and there is definite risk on their side of the event. But it never seems boring.

The other thought was how often I use the idea that I can’t help everyone for a excuse to help no one. There are too many problems in the world. Far too many people are in trouble. It seems that limitless resources, time and manpower wouldn’t be enough to deal with them all. If I help one, I feel guilty that I didn’t help the others. Better to be paralyzed in shame than wallow in guilt.

I have no idea how many people I pass in a day that ask me for money. Typically I don’t have cash so I am unable to help. If I do give some to one person, the next I meet feels more needy. If I give to one, I immediately wonder what addiction I am supporting. If I don’t give, I wonder if they truly will starve tonight.

I know all the strategies of offering to give the food or train ticket or whatever it is that they say they need money for rather than the money. And I know the prevalence of addictions in homeless people. That’s not the point.

This isn’t about judging the worthiness of the recipient. It is about the inundation of needs.

Last week, I wrote about imagining a better world and the end of poverty and homelessness. Selecting a starting point seems confusing, hard, overwhelming.

Today’s verse of the day, delivered to my mailbox told me that it is a sin not do what you know is right. But there is so much that I can do but I can’t do it all. I feel like Superman, feeling like a failure for not doing it all. I sin constantly in not doing all the right I see needing to be done.

I struggle each day with choosing to do something. Something is better than nothing. Since I can’t do everything, something is better than everything too.

Jesus said that anytime we help anyone, we are doing it to him too. Anything. That’s each something we do. Thankfully he didn’t say we only help him when we do everything. Just anything.

Tomorrow, I will look for something. I will not be paralyzed everything. I challenge you to find something too.

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Imagine That

Scripture tells us that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine. Every time I read that passage, I wonder how much our imagination, or lack of it, defines our world. Not just how we perceive the world but how it actually functions.

What if many of the age old problems in the world remain age old problems because we accept them to always be true, to be part of reality. What if we could imagine a better world, one without those problems, we could actually bring it about.

One if the more perplexing aspects of the Bible is the concept that God answers our prayers and that he intervenes because we ask and sometimes doesn’t because we don’t. I cannot explain the theology of that.  I can try to accept it and pray with faith an hope that it actually works that way. Some of the time. If it is true, and my prayers and yours sway God in some way, then why not seek his help with more? With everything. Even the small stuff. Or, even the really big stuff.

What if poverty exists because we can’t imagine a world without it so we don’t pray for that. Or war. Or disease. Or pollution. Or… You can fill in the next 50 “ors”.

In the movie Searching for Debra Winger, several actresses are interviews, including Whoopi Goldberg. she discusses being a child and watching Star Trek. The impact of Lt. Uhura affected Whoopi. She remembers telling her mom “There’s a black lady on television and she’s nobody’s maid.” That was an astounding item when Star Trek first aired on TV. Racism and sexism still drove what roles people played. Gene Roddenberry dared imagine a world, albeit a far distant future world, where a black woman could be an officer. Not the maid.

Would we have gotten to a black president without Star Trek showing us something different than the expected in the mid sixties? Probably, but it may still be coming. One man’s imagination changes how other expected and accepted things to be.

Granted other people played other roles, other imaginations added to the momentum of this movement. But someone, several someones maybe, imagining something different helped other imagine something different. And change followed.

Someone imagined a world without slavery and started acting on that. Others joined in. It was a nasty mess to get to an America without slavery, but it has happened. There is a long way to go. Slavery still exists in the world. Racism still causes problems in the U.S. but things are better and they will continue to get better as we imagine such a world and act on making it so.

But what does any of this have to do with prayer as I started out? This is about art. This is about activism. It’s not about prayer.

Or is it.

The book of Jeremiah includes a letter he wrote to a bunch of people in exile. He tells them that God wants them to pray for the peace and prosperity of the city where they live. As they do so, God will bring it about.

What if praying for the peace and prosperity of the city we live in, or state, or nation, or world, is the first step toward them becoming better places to be? What if imagining it could be different enough to want to pray for it is the first step to God motivating someone to take action about it?

Whenever I pray this, I feel that if I am asking God to bring peace and prosperity to the place I leave, that I need to ask him to make me an agent of that peace, that prosperity. I am told that faith without action is not really faith. So I try to find how to take some action about what I ask God to do.

I think we could have a drastically better world if we dare to pray for it, dare to take action to make it, have the guts to make paintings and songs and stories that show us what it would look like.

Take a minute. Imagine what such a world would be like. Then ask God how you can do something about making it happen.

I dare you.

The Journey Inward

We took our kids to the movies to watch a kid film. Occasionally they don’t enjoy kid films, feeling they are too old for the story at times. “Finding Nemo” has become one of these. I watch it from time to time and they ultimately end up on the couch with me, but they insist that it is too little for them.
But this trip to the cinema proved just the opposite, with my wife and I enjoying the film better than our daughters. It wasn’t too young but rather too intense. I’m not bashing the film. The depths of the emotions (anger, fear, loneliness, sadness) was greater than they were ready to experience in one one hundred minute dose. They even enjoyed it for the most part; it was more of a cumulative effect.
The film was “Where the Wild Things Are”. When I first heard this film was being made, I didn’t want to see it. I enjoyed the book more as an adult than as a kid, but I felt certain the movie would suck. Recent history supports this. Most attempts to stretch a children’s picture book into a feature length film results in horrendous bastardizations of the original story. I changed my mind when I heard that Spike Jonze was directing. I love his films. It was a hard to picture him doing something for kids, but I knew it would be good. Then the trailers made it obvious that they had captured the look Maurice’s Sendak’s art. It was worth the gamble.
The story of a child being overwhelmed by his life and losing control of his emotions resulting in his running away caught my attention. For one thing, the film, like the original story, has the power to magically transform me into a kid Max’s age. I think this stems from an understanding for and strong remembrance of childhood expressed by the director, writers and actors, returning themselves to what it feels like to be that age too. Then they took the story deeper without adding much to it. Then the filmmakers let this all become real, to mimic life and kids without attempts to pretty up everything for a nice Hollywood experience.
The true beauty of this film wasn’t just a journey into the imagination but also a journey inward. Max, when facing the wild things, is actually facing his emotions. These are big, scary things he can barely control, even as their supposed king. The feeling that they will destroy him and consume him sounds all too familiar. The reality is that even as adults feel this way, so too do kids. They are humans and have the full human array of emotions even though they don’t have the language to articulate it; they also the ability to experience them more deeply because they haven’t always built up defenses and filters like adults. Too often, because children don’t have these complexities we forget that they can still experience the full complexity of feelings.
That reminder is the power of this film.

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