Theology of the Imagination
The best two moments of my summer thus far sprung from two things normally not high on my yay! list: pulling thistles from the jumble of pine trees and junipers that form the woods in our backward and driving a gaggle of middle school boys across town to lacrosse practice.
What made these favorites? That in both instances I was treated to the wild, wooly and wonderful imaginations of kids at play. While I pulled weeds, two girls on the other side of the fence play-acted a story in which they kept twisting the plot. While I drove carpool, the boys designed desks of the future. (And if there are any venture capitalists out there, you may want to get in on these ideas! I already placed an order.)
I was delighted by what I overheard. While so many ramble on about how "kids today" no longer know how to play or to pretend because of their e-gadgets, I eavesdropped on proof otherwise. "Never fear, world!" I wanted to yell. "Kids still know how to pretend."
Trouble is, turns out, the world doesn't really care. At least, according to a new study. Imagination is not a value parents are too concerned with.
When PBS.org posted a story on the 2010-2014 World Values Survey and offered readers a chance to align 11 values with countries from around the world, I listed Imagination and Faith as No. 1 and 2 and left Thrift and Obedience as No. 10 and 11 ... naturally.
Then I wondered which creative, innovative lands would share my belief that nothing (not even faith—bear with me) is more important to teach kids than imagination. Would it be the good old US of A? Would it be Sweden, land of my ancestors? Cuba, from whence my in-laws emigrated? Australia, the place I've longed to visit?
Nope. Nope. Nope. And more nope. It would be none of them. Not one country surveyed listed Imagination as No. 1. Not only was Imagination not prized among the nations, it came in last in Eastern European and Balkan states, as well as among Asian and Latin American countries. Last. No. 7 was its highest ranking. (Thanks for that, at least, Australia.)
This left me wondering what on earth was wrong with my fellow citizens of the world.
Without imagination, life would terrible, only the concrete here and now, the right in front of our faces. No imagination means we're not asking questions about the past, the future, the faraway, or the other—on this world or beyond. Without imagination, every other "value" on that survey list is worthless.
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