Human imagination, like technology, can be wonderfully helpful or incredibly destructive. A fair amount of what I will eventually have to say on the imagination comes from yet another CBC Ideas broadcast/podcast. Other sources for this and future blogs are described in the paragraph below.
As for the stuff on humanism, theism and any other isms that might come up in this and future posts, I will acknowledge the sources where I can. Throughout my life I have collected thoughts and ideas from various thinkers. I have made notes on these ideas and recorded tapes of radio broadcasts before podcasts made it easier. I have a box of small spiral notepads that go back to when I was 20 – about 48 years ago. Other formats galore, though some have yellowed, remain intact. My mother, Angel, saved two funny letters from sea cadet camp (at 13) and two years of letters I wrote home to Montreal from Trinidad between 1965 and 1967. Lots of scattered notes, names, numbers and ideas. Blah blah ad infinitum.
Round about the year 2000 I kind of finally stopped believing in God. Regarding my decision not to believe, I had help from friends who still go to church. I mean that in a good way. These people acknowledged their scepticism to me and pointed me at books, such as Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ, in which Harpur announced that, after a life dedicated to major high-profile Christian service, he no longer believed in a historical Jesus of Nazareth. That book opened my eyes. My research into his sources made me trust what he was saying. A lot of things began to make sense. My break with my church, after a period of over twenty years devoted largely to its music and liturgy, was not easy. It still is difficult. Many of its members are still like family to me, except for my wife, who is family.
I started out looking for a community in which I would feel comfortable. The closest approximation I found was the Unitarian Church, but I never made a move in any direction. Teaching high school still consumed most of my time and energy until I retired in 2007. After retiring I proceeded to spend the majority of my free time planning travel, traveling and producing a “documentary-movie” record of our travels, collecting more and more notes…
Oh yeah, this post started out to be about imagination. Then I realized I wanted to start at the beginning of my intellectual wandering and explain why I’m so old and still so confused.
It eventually became plain that I would never be a pure materialist. I am hard-wired, as I begin to suspect all of us H. saps are, to search for meaning. I am addicted to meaning. If there were an outfit like Meaning-Seekers Anonymous I’d be attending regular sessions. I am a huge fan of people like Dawkins and Hitchens (d. 2011) , who have pointed out the huge, in-your-face, problems with the crazier aspects of religion. But they, brilliant though they are, cannot be the whole story.
If we H. saps are to come out of this century, let alone this millennium, with our asses, we need to find a way to come together. Athiests have a role to play. Theists have a role to play. Deists have a role. Hindus, Buddhists, Animalists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Theosophists and, yes, very significantly, folks in the remote headwaters of the Amazon River or in East Timor, have a role in bringing us to the realization that the current religion, whose fundamental piece of doctrine is “There Is No God But GDP,” needs to be strongly opposed. We need to bring our leaders out of the monetary clouds and back to earth – literally – Back to Earth.
We can’t wait very long. We need to come together. We can’t wait for behavioural scientists or any other single group to sort us out and bring us together to a single, sustainable worldview. Dialogue between fundamentalists (any of the foregoing groups that think they alone have the one, right answer) at opposite ends of the spectrum will not happen. We need to respectfully challenge, and allow ourselves to be challenged by, people who do not hold our precise views until we find common planetary ground.
This will require imagination and hard, courageous work. I must leave, now, but while I’m gone, as the song goes – No Woman No Cry. Meanwhile, you might choose to listen to the CBC podcast: Imagination, especially Part 2 (see above link). I’ll be back soon to continue the imagination story…
Here is a poem by William Blake (1757-1827) on how one group of doctrinaire fundamentalists killed the human imagination in his time:
The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,And saw what I never had seen:A Chapel was built in the midst,Where I used to play on the green.And the gates of this Chapel were shut,And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,That so many sweet flowers bore.And I saw it was filled with graves,And tomb-stones where flowers should be:And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,And binding with briars, my joys & desires.