This is a guest blog written by storyteller Jim May, copyright 2016.
(Excerpted from Trail Guide For A Crooked Heart, by Jim May, Marion, Mi, Parkhurst Brothers Publishers, 2016)
I was once telling stories to a large group of second-graders in an auditorium. As they were all filing by the stage after the program, along came a boy in a bit of a hurry, jostling past me.
The second grader looked over his shoulder at me and said,
“Thanks for the movies.”
I don’t think he was trying to be clever or metaphorical but rather, telling me what transpired in his imagination: scenes with characters and action. It did not occur to him that they were not real movies.
The alternative to paying attention to our imaginations, our third eye, or window to the subconscious -- or perhaps, to another dimension, is to see everything as true or false, black or white, right or wrong.
Often, when I’m telling stories in elementary schools, a young child will ask:
Is that story true?
It seems that from a young age on we are encouraged, perhaps pressured, to build a wall between the real world and the imaginary world, the world of spirit and the world of matter, the world of reason verses intuition.
Children asking me the question above want to know on which side of the wall to put a folk or fairy tale, or a recounting of factual events like my farm story: Bootsie, the Cattle-Herding Chihuahua.
And so, most of us trudge along, moored to our factual universe.
But, even if we don’t have a religious or spiritual belief, life happens. We long for a loved one who has died. We seek to escape the perils and ills of the world, to rid our conscious minds, if even for a short time, from the news of the day.
Storyteller, Kristin Olson-Huddle,* whose parents were both killed in an accident when she was a child, tells the story of her favorite aunt Gale, who comforted her:
. . . so we snuck upstairs, away from the rest of the family to my cousin's bedroom. She had her bed up on posts.
Gale and I sat together under the bed.
We sat with knees touching, holding hands.
Am I here?
How do you know?
I can see you
Close your eyes, Am I here?
How do you know?
I can feel you
So she let go of my hands, scooted back
Am I here?
How do you know?
I can hear you
(Whisper) Am I here? And how do you know, even when I'm not whispering?
I just know
Exactly. Just like your parents
Our imagination, like the heart muscle of the soul, seeks to know the unknowable:
- a belief in the afterlife,
- a solution to some unexplainable, observed phenomena,
- or a connection with the divine.
Such longings may tempt us to challenge the world of empirical fact, to poke holes in the wall dividing the real from the unreal, the symbolic from the actual, the world of imagination from that of science.
In so doing, we may allow the world of image, stories, and sensations to loosen the mortar between the bricks in the walls of separation, giving credence to a broader, fuzzier truth. If we make a practice of this new perspective, then, the wall between the real and unreal may remain permeable.
In the best of circumstances allowing the imagination a longer rein invites an initiation into a world rich in language, symbols, and rhythm--a baptism into the sacred--a kind of ephemeral shadow emerges behind the literal physical presence of a place, a phenomenon, or a life.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."
-- Einstein, Albert
A mythic perspective is gained that sees references to an underworld, for instance, as a commentary on the difficult places in our lives. A story about a demon may provide some small window to see our own predicaments in a new light. Likewise, narratives of our lives and of those around us may take on new meaning.
Our third eye* emerges and becomes a more expansive way of looking at our life, our relationships, and our destiny. We are able to negotiate a sideways entry point into eternity that seeks to hold the experience of immortality in a heartbeat; that dares to suggest that eternity is not linear, but like truth, that it is everywhere in every moment.
The full-color world of metaphor and spirituality takes up residence in our consciousness, our soul, and in our artist life.
We are open to a new, dew-fresh, and satin, awareness: the grass smells greener, we have a bit more purpose in our steps as we feel the earth beneath us, we fall in love more easily, and maybe have more compassion for others as we more clearly hear their stories, imagine the hardships of their journeys, and see other human beings as part of our story.
Can it be too much to hope for that war, and other cruel delusions of separateness, might become a casualty of the life of the imagination.
“Hatred is a failure of the imagination.”
--Graham Greene (English Novelist)
Thanks, Jim for this wonderful post! Educators, you can find many of Jim May's stories on Tales2go, including one of his popular series, The Boo Babies.