"To have lost the taste for marvels and adventures is no more a matter for congratulations than losing our teeth, our hair, our palate, and finally our hopes."---C.S. Lewis
We cannot have faith in that which we cannot first imagine.
Let me suggest an exercise to stimulate your imagination this summer. Read some good children's stories.
Reviving Your Imagination
C. S. Lewis was one of this century's most erudite and prolific scholars. Before his death in 1963 he produced some 60 works including books of literary criticism, theology, philosophy, poetry, autobiography, and, most importantly, children's stories.
Imagination is not just for children.
Why did such a renowned scholar write children's stories? Lewis believed that imagination is a key to successful living, not just for children but for adults too.
"The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose," wrote Lewis. "Not to acquire a taste for the realistic is childish in a bad sense; to have lost the taste for marvels and adventures is no more a matter for congratulations than losing our teeth, our hair, our palate, and finally our hopes."
So at midlife Lewis wrote children's stories (at 54 his last of seven novels called The Chronicles of Narnia was completed). His imagination created the magical land of Narnia, and he enriched not only himself but the lives of countless readers in the process.
Imagination is a condition for truth.
Today Lewis is probably most famous as a philosopher and articulate defender of the Christian faith. Some critics have found this odd. How could one so devoted to human reason also embrace imagination?
Lewis said that imagination actually helps reason. Imagination creates metaphors which in turn produce meaning, and reason cannot function without meaning.
For instance, you can use reason to tell your doctor why your toe hurts--"I hit it on a chair." But you need imagination and metaphor to explain how much it hurts--"It feels like an elephant stepped on it!"
Imagination is necessary for faith.
Thus, to communicate with others even the most reasonable of us must resort to imagination on a daily basis. We also need imagination to develop faith.
In The Chronicles of Narnia the children at first cannot get into the land of Narnia because they do not believe in it, and they cannot believe in it because they cannot imagine it. They have read all the wrong books, books that "have a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but are weak on dragons."
But faith finally prevails because imagination does. The children enter Narnia through a magical wardrobe and have many exciting adventures there as kings and queens of the land.
Midlifers need the same kind of imagination to believe in the possibilities of our second half of life. We cannot have faith in that which we cannot first imagine.
So let me suggest an exercise to stimulate your imagination. Read some good children's stories. If you don't already have favorites, let me recommend C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, the children's stories that revived my own midlife imagination.
To get started pick up a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at your local bookstore or library. Then get ready for an imaginative feast filled with mythological characters and talking beasts.
And if you too become a friend of Narnia and a loyal subject of the Great Lion Aslan, I would like to hear from you.
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