What Makes an Imaginative Life?
Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Only mystics, clowns, and artists, in my experience, speak the truth, which, as Blake keeps insisting, is perceptive to the imagination rather than the mind.”
To live a good life is to live a truthful life and to live a truthful life, in light of Muggeridge’s words, is to live a creative, imaginative life. Yet, we live in a culture that not only offers us a rather un-imaginative idea of the good life, but does its damndest to convince us that this consumerist version of the “good life” is the only life worth living – and if you make enough money, you can buy it online, or at the local shopping mall.
In the past ten days: I spent a weekend in the mountains chopping wood with an old friend surrounded by autumn colors, said goodbye to his dog that I’ve watched live the best life a dog could ask for running free in the mountains for most of his 12+ years; a photography installation I recently launched was part of the background for a day of broadcasting on Fox News Business; I flew to Seattle on a Thursday to spend the day with two boisterous men eating battered salmon and chowder on a barge, shopping for flowers in Pikes Place Market, then we drove I-90 to a chalet in the mountains where we ended the day drinking good wine and scotch talking life, love, theology, and what it means to be fully human; this theme of good food, good drink and diverse, thoughtful conversation carried on through the weekend as the nine other artists, actors, writers, and poets arrived the following day. The weekend ended sitting on a park bench in the Queen Anne district overlooking the Seattle skyline at dusk.
And it was on that park bench that I thought on how this snapshot of my life is beyond anything I could have made up myself if left to my own devices. It is a rich, colorful, flush with grace, good life. It is, also, the things that didn't make that snapshot; the private conversations about hard things, the unanswerable crossroads in men's lives, or the frustrated miscommunications between two friends that ended in tears or silence; the moments in my own and those around me where it feels like nothing but another trip into the salt mines of daily existence. This, too, is a grace. It is a gift, a gift of imagination from the One with the wisdom and creative power to imagine something more than I could. And it is in the dynamic intimacy with such a Creator that a truthful life is crafted.
This is not something you can order online or out of a catalog, or that the best of American advertising can offer.
So does an imaginative life reverberate a truthful life? Not so much fantastical, but a creatively imaginative life? And does the imaginative life we set out to make only become truthful, and thus truly good, in relationship with the One who imagined a life in our making? Or is it something we can come up with on our own?
And how do we do so without perpetuating what Ingmar Bergman said: “the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other’s eyes and yet deny the existence of each other…”?