Reenchanting the World
Written by T. M. Suffield |
Saturday, May 27, 2023
So much of the faith is weirder than we’re used to thinking, not just the sensational stuff like angels and Nephilim, but ‘simple’ concepts like Union with Christ. It’s the heart of the Christian view of salvation, yet I rarely hear it talked about in our churches. It’s weird, it’s enchanted, it makes us much smaller and the world much bigger—there are depths beneath your life that we cannot fathom, ‘full of mystery and hope’ as B. F. Westcott puts it.
Walter Bruggeman, in his book Interpretation and Obedience, said that:
The key pathology of our time, which seduces us all, is the reduction of the imagination, so that we are too numbed, satiated, and co-opted to do imaginative work.
We’ve lost our ability to imagine, and the world is flattened for it. The horns of Elfland are silenced, but for those who have heard them there is a hollowness to the sound of this little world, that yearns for something greater.
That yearning, that longing, is the spiritual gift of dissatisfaction, and the ground of joy. Imagination is one of the ways to get to it.
Perhaps you aren’t convinced that we’ve lost our ability to imagine, you can imagine perfectly well, thank you very much! And you can find flights of imaginative fancy cast in glorious technicolour on large and small screens everywhere you go. This is of course, true.
I could point to the two pitfalls of Hollywood at the moment: either the nostalgia trap where we remake old stories again less well or retell the stories of very recent history, or the sequel trap where the films that really make money are just the same story churned out over and over again in different configurations (here’s looking at you MCU).
At the bottom they are of course the same pathology; they’re a lack of new stories to tell. Though, to gently nuance myself, telling the same story in different configurations is an imaginative literary trope that we call ‘typology’ and is all over the Bible. I don’t think the writers of Marvel films are doing this, but you could do something that has repetitive elements with great literary artifice if you are a very skilled writer.
Bruggeman was writing before this was the case in our visual storytelling, though, and you would be able to come up with counterexamples that demonstrate originality, I’m sure. The real way we can tell we’re losing our imagination is that all the fun stuff is now confined to fiction.