I need some grant money for starting a business - anyone else want a piece of this? I'm going to call it Narrative Therapy, Inc., and the service I will offer is this. Have a conference with me about your life and your troubles ... the issues you can't resolve ... the crap that keeps making you slip and fall because you just never know when you're about to step in it ... the parts of life you don't get ... and I'll begin a course of therapy with you. This therapy will consist of only about 10% talk, and the rest will be spent in watching movies, attending plays, and reading books. We will talk about what you saw in the assigned narrative, but the point of it is the narrative itself, and the ability of the imagination to enter into it. How's that sound? Want in?
See, I think that the world of imagination has gotten a bum rap in our modern times - our "sordidly materialistic" times, to use the words I read in an article once. Novels were scorned and forbidden by Victorian Era Presbyterians, and "romantic" continues to be a word of dismissive rejection. It means "not realistic" - or ... "not practical."
Then there's the "actor" thing. All the way back in the days of Shakespeare, nobody of any social standing would admit to having a relative in the theater! Actors weren't very socially acceptable folk -- and heaven knows, there is plenty of reason to decry the personal morality of our current set of "Hollywood" celebrities. (I always think this is a bit silly, by the way. Ordinary people usually do act like idiots when a whole bunch of people are watching them all the time, and actors are just ordinary people being watched all the time. And what kind of news is there in "Joe Actor is a good man who is faithful to his wife and loves his kids" - who's going to report that?)
And fiction of any kind is just "lies," after all. Right? I have even heard some people - the kind of people who need to "believe the Bible" in the most odiously block-headed and simplistic sense of that phrase - declare that the parables Jesus told were all "true stories" about real people everyone would have known. Nonsense! Why the whole reason for the Bible in the first place is for the keeping of the record of The Story! It's a story - it's about God's interaction with people in time on earth, and it is a story, ultimately, of Betrayal and Redemption. It's a story - the whole thing together is, I mean. It's not a series of stories having nothing to do with each other.
But I digress. All of this stuff is stacked together by some people, and then the pile of "impractical" and "lies" and "silly" is what they point to when they say, "I don't have time." There are those who say that the imagination is a "fallen" and "sinful" thing. Or, others who seem to think that fiction of any kind is at best an occasionally interesting waste of time. It's a mere leisure activity to engage in a willful suspension of disbelief. It's not how a person gets his work done. It doesn't produce anything if you sit and read a book - or if you watch a movie. That's goofing off.
And that is where living, breathing, feeling people begin to turn into wooden puppets. That's my Observation du Jour. If we will not lose our souls every once in awhile in the realm of the imagination (because God is the maker of all things - visible and invisible), we will lose them for sure. I'm not talking about ultimately - that's a topic for a different discussion. I'm talking about here. Now. Humans are supposed to be able to learn and grow and expand and take root through stories. We ignore the invisible parts of creation to our own peril. It's bad for us to pretend that the seen is all there is.
Folk tales and faerie tales -- stories for the imagination to work on. Feel the edges of your own most base and shameful assumptions about people begin to crack and crumble a bit when you watch or read To Kill a Mockingbird. Understand the nobility of personal sacrifice and the ignobility of personal grasping when you enter Tolkein's world of Ideas given life as Characters. View deepest evil in Kevin Spacey's portrayal of a media mogul in Swimming With Sharks, or get a grip on personal relationships and the connection we can find if we'll just give up self-aggrandizement for a moment while you enter the story of Family Man or Groundhog Day. Begin to allow yourself to let go of the weight of a thousand ancestors and learn the meaning and context of Pleasure as you watch the exquisite Juliette Binoche in Chocolat.
And if ever you find yourself unable to feel a connection to the world around you, do not ignore the symptom. Try Narrative Therapy - get a grip on your own imagination again - it is your inner eye, and if you're blind in one eye, you lose perspective.