“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
“Well, you know my name is Simon,
And the things I draw come true.
Oh, the pictures take me, take me over
Climb the ladder with you.”
Imagination, our great gift, is one of our most important faculties and essential to creativity. Used properly, it can create beauty. Used in the service of fear or oppression, it can cause chaos. It can scare us silly, or help us to envision a solution or allow us to express ourselves. Like the will, or the intellect, it depends on whose service it enters.
We were made to be co-creators with God in his creation. Imagination is not bound by physical limits, and can be childlike with curiousity and wonder. As Proverbs 25:2 reads, “God delights in concealing things, scientists delight in discovering things.” (MSG) Given a vision of potential, we are inspired to research, build, paint, write, sew.
The process of journaling, both with words and pictures, is an excellent way to stimulate the imagination, as it teaches us to observe the world around us and in us. Hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell come alive as we employ them.
I once took a journaling class, offered as a University of Western Ontario continuing education course. In one particular session, the teacher told a story in an imaginary setting, abruptly stopping us at a point where we were in front of a mountain and valley. We were to draw what we pictured there. I am by no means an artist, but figured that a wanderer would rather be in a green valley, by the grassy banks of a quiet river, so drew that. In the distance, I sketched a train chugging across a bridge, and up on the hill, a house.
After class, an accidental turn stranded me in a maze of small streets off Riverside Drive instead of my intended main thoroughfare route through London. I was trying to turn around in a small subdivision and head back when there came the low whistle of a train curving around the track in the distance on the hills to my left. Up on a higher ridge were houses. Only at that point did I realize that this scene was familiar – like my primitive river side drawing. It was an odd feeling, as if I was like Simon from the Captain Kangaroo show who’d sketched a world that became reality. Did I draw it, or was I drawn to it?
HOPE (Hospice Outreach Programs of Elgin) offers art journaling courses as part of working through grief. Especially when words fail, it’s healing to imaginatively work with your hands. Art offers a colour palette for emotion, simple drawing or clay molding bring conflicted feelings to the surface. Art provides an alternative stage to reveal our humanity.
“Not even an oar!” said the art therapist of my painting of the traveler following the tiller in the setting sun. It’s as if, attracted by the sheer magnetism of the light, I am entrusting my whole being to its pull over the turbulent waves. When I later came across Redilon’s painting, The Mystical Boat, in Thomas Moore’s Soul Mates, there was a thrill of recognition. A boat setting out on an uncharted sea has historical allusions to the Biblical Noah, or the mythology of Tristan, setting out to sea with only his music.
There is much to explore in art, dreams, music, and story. Though we are alone in our journey, others have gone before us on similar quests. Our imagination, like a pioneer, leads the way.