Thursday, August 31, 2017

Imagining a Better World


     The last day of August. Sensing a liminal space, feeling this seasonal threshold, I was lured from the luxury of the back porch, camera in hand, in search of the image that invited and scaffolded the glimpse beyond. The bold flowers, richly colored and so soon to fade and fall, captured the shutter. Often, the image recovered on my computer screen invites further meditation, a doorway opening imagination.
     The phenomena of images widens enormously, amazingly, in the writings of Henry Corbin. 
 “when a thing manifested to the senses or the intellect calls for a hermeneutics (ta’wil) because it carries a meaning which transcends the simple datum and makes that thing a symbol, this symbolic truth implies a perception on the plane of the active Imagination. The wisdom which is concerned with such meanings, which makes things over as symbols and has as its field the intermediate world of subsisting Images, is a wisdom of light (hikmat nuriya), typified in the person of Joseph, the exemplary interpreter of visions” (p. 190, Alone with the Alone).
     In addition to the ending of August, this week marks the beginning of another school year. It’s the first time in over sixty years that my vision is not focused in a school room. Not preoccupied with planning and presenting lessons, my mind finds space and time for reflection. It’s like looking into the photographic image to see beyond. My teaching career culminated in the Good Stories course.
     Reflected in eye of my mind and imagination, Good Stories served as a playground in the symbolic world. The importance of this kind of activity, taken seriously, goes mostly unrecognized in our age characterized by scientific proof and material values. The extinction of spirituality traces to many trends such as the triumph of rationalism (at least back to Descartes’ cogito, ergo sum , ~1637) and more than a century of nihilistic ponderings about the “death of God.”
     In Good Stories, we imagined the land of fairies, the flight on the firebird, the possibilities of the “water of Life,” the beast to beauty transformations, and other happenings beyond the surface level. Was Martin Luther King, Jr. crazy to dream of a world able to see past skin color on into a world with love for all God’s children? Was the academy right to treat dismissively any course dedicated to developing the human lens for seeing through story? Is the truth only found through the microscope, through behaviorism, the world as it is? The events and implications of hurricane Harvey and the monsoon in south Asia push us to wonder how policy makers and voters might expand vision beyond immediate and personal gratification, further than literal dogma, the denial of God.