The Power of Imagination

Last week…or was it two weeks ago? I can’t quite remember…I had a few ups and downs that distracted me not only from my writing (and blogging, as you may have noticed), but also from my prayer. Friday was a particularly bad day, and I was complaining aloud to God as I was stuck in traffic due to construction. (I have no idea what the other drivers thought of this sister in habit who was having an animated, seemingly one-sided conversation in the car.) At a certain point, having told God quite firmly that I’d had enough, and a bit afraid of what I’d say if I kept going, I turned on the radio. The announcer was recapping a story about a theft. It seems a trailer parked near Montreal had disappeared–with two camels and a tiger inside. Police suspected that the thieves had no idea what was in the trailer. The announcer did not make it clear if the police were more concerned about the safety of the animals, or of the thieves, or of the neighborhood when the thieves would open the door.

Immediately I pictured it: the thieves opening the trailer, expecting furniture or eletronics, or palettes of boxes…and instead discovering a tiger and two camels. I couldn’t help it: I giggled and realized that perhaps my day was not so bad after all. At least, not compared to the trouble those thieves could be in. The story, the image, and my giggle lightened my mood and my day. How powerful our imaginations can be! (Several days later, the camels and tiger did get safely back to the zoo….)

Recently, a friend brought The Foundation of the Sacred Arts to my attention. Their website has some interesting articles, among them: The Transmission of Faith Through Art by Hamilton Reed Armstrong. Not only does Armstrong give us a succinct but insightful summary of the Church’s relationship to art, he also uses an intriguing phrase which I’ve thought a lot about before and since: “the apostolate of the imagination.” In our emotionally-driven culture, if we can capture the imagination of our audiences, their emotions will be deeply touched, and lives could be transformed.

Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, entitled a book with a wonderful phrase that he insisted was very important to our spiritual lives, our call to holiness, and our media mission: “the sanctification of the mind.” He included the imagination in his definition of “the mind” and dedicated several pages to talking about the importance of the imagination. What if we, as communicators, are “apostles” to the “imagination” of our culture? I think we are called to offer compelling stories that capture the imagination, with characters and conflicts that push the imagination to go beyond the mundane and formulaic, to the heights of what it means to be human, what it means to live the Gospel. And what would those “heights” look like?

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