Friday, August 03, 2007

Creativity, Fantasy, and Reality

On Wednesday, our pastor came to visit us. In the course of conversation he spoke about two of his sons, both of whom are artists, and how creative they are and how creativity is a natural extension and result of faith (though God is gracious to make all people creative to some degree even before they know Him) C.S. Lewis' writings are so creative, and then about various fantasy writers along the lines of Lewis.
Actually, I've never had that great an appreciation for fantasy books, not even Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia (gasp!). I told our pastor that I thought it was odd how many Christian writers chose to write fantasy books. He seemed surprised that I didn't get the connection; he said that it was a natural thing for people to delve into fantasy to try to bridge the gap between the material world we live in and the immaterial world, that so much about our faith is left to our imagination. I'm bemused at our different perspectives. In contrast, I find that faith to be sufficient in itself (not that he doesn't)--how do I explain my point of view? That since the reality is found in Christ (Col 2:17) and He is in heaven, and since that's beyond all that we have ever seen or can imagine (1 Cor 2:9), that I will just find out someday, and it's something to anticipate with eagerness. I feel like it's something like peeking at Christmas presents before Christmas, to try to picture it ahead of time. And then there's the fact that we have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), so as things are, we are fully equipped! So why look to imagination for more? It escapes my practical mind...probably to my detriment, but that's the way I'm geared.
It got me thinking. I'm not into fantasy, but I am creative. I don't generally fantasize about anything, but I might imagine how something might look that I'm planning to make, like a flowerbed I'm carving out or a curtain I'm sewing...but it's all in the realm of reality and near future possibility (always tending toward the optimistic, perhaps unrealistic idea that I might complete the project well, but that's another story). To think up strange characters and strange animals that have never been seen on this earth or described in the Scriptures seems superfluous to me, and yet so many see it in another light. This world has enough strange animals and characters to show any of us God's amazing creative power. I guess creating variations on those things is the way God has geared these authors. They definitely have many good Christian readers who appreciate their writings and their imagination.
I don't generally like reading books that can't be real, so in parenting and homeschooling I never read much in the way of fairy tales or allegory books to my kids. This has had two different results in our two kids--Katie, being more like me, shares my view of literature and doesn't much like fantasy. She was never one to pretend to be something she wasn't, or to play with dolls much. She loves to read the same type of books I love. She has her feet firmly planted in the land of reality.
Tim on the other hand has always been one to imagine, to dream, to have his mind galaxies away. He has always been one to dress up and pretend (to the great delight of our neighbors Dean and Stacia), to set out his various play figures in battle scenes and pirate ship scenarios and have different voices for each of the characters, carrying on long and involved stories among them. Tim also had the benefit of having Mr. Peters read one of the Chronicles books to him in Sunday school, to his delight. He is such a daydreamer that when I talk to him I can only hope that he actually heard what I said and that it registered. Both kids have been brought up essentially as only children, being ten years apart, so being like an only child hasn't had a universal effect here.
In talking to Stacia about this whole subject, she said, "Well, did you ever go 'dream walking' as a kid?" No, I didn't think I did. She described how she and her cousin would walk between their houses imagining the whole time that they were a couple of princesses, and that various things they saw were things fitting for the royal world. I could only relate to it in one way. I remember sitting in the corner or having been sent to my room and fuming over the perceived injustice of it all...and going off into a dream world, imagining myself to be mortally ill, and my mother repenting of all her (perceived) bad judgments against me. (The only frustrating part was that I was never creative enough to think up a way for myself to recover from the illness--I'd be practically dead before I'd get that satisfaction from my mother, and what good was that?!) I think it's a common scenario, because I think Ramona the Pest does the same in Beverly Cleary's books, and so does the boy in the movie, "The Christmas Story."
A person can be painfully practical and still be creative (or vice-versa). I've always been one to create my kids' homeschooling plans, schedules, forms...and anyone who likes to write is somewhat creative. Besides that, a person has to be creative to garden, to sew, to think up a menu, to cook a variety of meals, to paint walls, to plan improvements to a home, to think up new uses for items, to find new ways to save money or time or energy, to fix broken things without going broke. I love being creative in those ways--with varying levels of proficiency, of course!
Perhaps it is the German or Scottish heritage that makes Katie and me practical in the extreme. There's a trace of French in there, too. I think maybe the French are dreamers. Maybe that's where Tim got it. But he got it in buckets, and we didn't. I kind of envy his ability to get lost in imagination, but only a bit. God has blessed me with a reality with which I'm quite happy, and I want to stay here. For now.



I've always marvelled at the creativity and artistry that goes into even building a commercial building. The architect really has to have a vision, as does one who sews, or paints a fence, etc., but few appreciate the art in everyday life.

NeverAlone said...

Katie also loves architecture. I think I do, too--the things I might do to a house if I had the money! It's probably a good thing our finances are limited.