(Click on picture for larger image)
Note from CM: Because tomorrow is Halloween, our pic & poem post will become a pic & post article — excerpted from one of Michael Spencer’s classic Halloween pieces.
• • •
The world of the imagination has always been essential to human beings, but they’ve never known just what to do with it. Sometimes they want to live there entirely, and others times they avoid it completely. They reward those who create it in books and music, and yet they fear these artists of the imagination as well, even doing them great harm. Throughout history, the imagination has been denounced as well as celebrated. Each one of us knows about those times when we were welcome to bring happiness, and also about those times when we were blamed for all kinds of evil that we did not create, in fact, could not create because of what we are.
This ambiguity is part of human nature, and we ourselves embody part of the struggle. Is the world a place that truly is as it appears, or is there more to the universe than what eyes see and ears hear on any particular day? Do good and evil really exist, or are they simply words that mean nothing? Do human being really understand themselves, or are there mysteries within them that defy explanation?
On our best days, we all realize that we are simply the imaginary embodiment of that struggle to know and comprehend, and our part is to play the unseen, the unknown, that which is not understood. We allow the human imagination to play with the reality that escapes science and math and college courses and glib experts. We are the night, the darkness and the fear. We do not exist, but human imagination needs us desperately to try and take hold of the incomprehensible.
Particularly painful for many of us are the escalating attacks of religious people on the realm of the imagination. We have suffered from those who see the imagination as a gateway of evil, rather than a canvas on which human nature itself paints the picture. We have been blamed for violence and even death, things we would not even know were it not for human beings investing us with those actions in their own minds. It is as if some religious people actually believe that we exist — that we are real and were somehow a threat to them.
When I see someone explaining the evil influence of a pumpkin, it’s both a cause for laughter and for sadness. How can anyone, particularly one who says they believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, believe that mummies and werewolves and ghosts and witches hold any spiritual or actual power? One of the best imaginative writers, C.S. Lewis, who created all of the Narnia characters, was convinced that God gave human beings the realm of the imagination to be a sort of classroom to teach them, in a childish form, the spiritual nature of the universe and reality itself. In allowing them to create the imaginative realm, they were learning to reflect on reality and see its true character, and to see their own character as well. It was a way to see that human beings are the imaginative creations of God himself, and they reflect both his nature and their own fallen, rebellious nature.
I believe it was Frank Peretti who recently said that from his childhood fascination with monsters and ghouls he learned to live with his own physical deformity and the isolation and rejection it brought. He learned to love himself, and to find compassion towards other hurting people, by watching Frankenstein and Creature of the Black Lagoon. How many children have come to see spiritual reality through Narnia? To know Jesus through Aslan? What lessons of good and evil are being taught right now by Harry Potter? Whether they be fairy tales or silly horror movies, the imaginative realm is a reflection of human beings’ ability to create their own worlds, with realities that reflect the depth of nature and the realities of good, evil, hope and redemption.
For all the abuse we have suffered at the hands of those who believe Halloween is somehow the real world ( and that includes those humans who think themselves to be vampires and spend hours looking for ghosts), we must never forget those who celebrate our world purely and simply, without making it into an idol of fear or devotion. On our night, millions of children will enter into the world of the imagination and be enriched by doing so. They will safely sojourn in a world slightly different from their own and return better for it. Teenagers who take time off from being so serious to play and be children again. And certainly adults who continue to love the world of the imagination and return there often. To these person we owe our continued joy.