Are we losing our fanciful side?

On Tuesday I drove down to Portland to meet a friend for coffee. One coffee is mine. One is hers. Care to guess whose is whose?

Well actually I was meeting more than one friend but the fellow, Paul, was drinking the coffee of Canadians — hot tea.  Maybe it will help you to know that the woman I was meeting is none other than the very funny, very talented, very big-hearted Susan Isaacs, actress/comedienne & author of the very entertaining Angry Conversations with God. If you haven’t read her book yet, you should treat yourself to a copy. Funny stuff  in that book.

Susan & husband Larry Wilson live in California but Larry’s an Oregonian so they make a yearly trip north to visit family over the holidays. Susan and I have been cyber-friends for some time but this was our first in-person gathering. Larry, who you may remember I interviewed for Double-Wide, was off doing some interviewing of his own in Oregon City. He is working on a wonderful story about a how the Union Gospel Mission changed the trajectory of one man’s life. When he gets it finished I’ll share it with you. So while Susan, Paul and I had a lovely visit, Larry and I met for only five minutes before he and Susan had to hop back on I-5 and head south to Sacramento.

If you get a chance to go to Oregon City, do stop by Singer Hill Cafe at 7th and John Adams Street. (And if you are posing for photos beware the finger pointing behind your back).

The Stumptown brew is worth the stop. Of course after two cups of the Ethiopian blend, I had a case of the jitters myself. But instead of hopping back on the freeway home, I drove down the street a couple of blocks to pay a visit to some pretty special fellows.

My nephew David and his newborn son, Adam.

And his wife Rose and their other newborn Oliver.

This was the first opportunity I’ve had to meet the boys. They are the third set of twins in our family that we are aware of — there may be more among the ancestors. Granny Ruth had twins the first go-round. A boy and a girl. The boy was Uncle Woody, who grew up to be a preacher man, but the girl died at birth.

That’s Granny Ruth. She died when Mama was only 19, I think. Mama was the youngest and is the only one in the Harve Mayes family still living. Granny Ruth birthed three girls and five boys but Mama was the only girl to survive past birth. I don’t think Granny Ruth had an inclination that she was pregnant with twins until she gave birth to them. Rose and David’s boys were born at the same Portland hospital that my girls were born at 28 years ago. More poetry.

Rose and David belong to a church where they get plenty of support. Since David left the Army — he served a year in Iraq with the Stryker Brigade & earned a Purple Heart in the process — he’s been pursuing his degree at Portland State University. He also works full-time. Church friends have been coming in in the evenings and helping Rose feed the boys, change them, care for them. I understand what a saving grace such help can be. When my girls were young we didn’t have any family around and Tim was working two jobs and in school. If it hadn’t been for that 3-year-old big brother of the girls I don’t know how I would have managed. Stephan was a huge help, always getting me diapers and binkies and burb rags.

All in all, it was a fun day. An opportunity to meet the newest members of the family and to catch up with new friends who feel like they’ve always been around. Paul did tell me that he finally had that private meeting with Mark Driscoll. A lively discussion. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on the wall?

A regular reader of this blog wrote to me recently and asked, Why do people have problems with Paul’s book, The Shack?

I didn’t quite know how to answer the question. The best I can offer is that a person who is literalistic has a difficult time with imagery. The type of person who gets deep enjoyment from reading law books isn’t likely to enjoy reading The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter.

I worry that in this information-driven culture of ours that we have lost, or are losing, our fanciful side. Our imagination. Our ability to read fiction and to understand it as fiction.

Can a people weaned on reality television grasp literature chocked full of imagery and allegory?

And while we are dancing around this subject, what makes a person drawn to dogma in the first place?

Most of us have no desire to be locked behind bars. Why, then, particularly in the Christian community, do we spend so much more time building fences than we do bridges?

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  • Debbie

    That last question is the million dollar question for sure and I have no answer for you. Those little boys are cuties! And yes I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the private convo of the decade. I am reading the book Philip Yancey wrote in conjunction with Dr Paul Brand who worked among lepers and it truly is a wonderful book as Dr Brand takes me through the wonders of the human body and then ties it with his reflections on the body of Christ. Then when I put it down I cruise facebook and am drawn to this site full of christians who believe in universal salvation or reconciliation, most have fled the church and dismiss the bible because it is corrupted by men etc etc and their conversations are just like nothing I have been a part of before. If i suggest that Jesus didn’t think every one was going to accept Him then the crowd pounces on me. One woman blocked me and said I was mean because I disagreed with her stating that there is no devil but our own ego. So I dunno on one hand I have a group who spout off all day about how God is Love and love is all that matters and then there is this biography of a man who loved and the difference is amazing. I’d like to live my life more like the latter.

  • So many people are unwilling to accept anything that challenges their particular brand of faith – be it organized or individualized. They feel threatened and lash out in the supposed name of Jesus – you know – standing up in His name for His honor. I run into this alot in Tennessee. Brick walls. Sometimes those walls really hurt when they’re put up by friends who are trying to convince you that if you don’t believe their way (the right way) then you’re going to Hell. I believe in a loving God.

    • Debbie

      Me too Gary – I believe in a loving God too – it screams from the cross.

  • Sharon O

    This was a great blog. I am in Oregon also and rarely do I get to read about someone in the area where I am familiar with. So what is the connection between the ‘shack’ author and the writer of this blog? I read the book and thought it was awesome and my husband works with his son. blessings to you in the new year.

  • Karen: bars/fences/bridges… Our root sin as humans is our incessant desire to be God, to call the shots, declare who’s in and who’s out. We judge. And we like it. And we westerners seem to live mostly in a linear world, completely oblivious of any other ways of seeing time and the cycle of life. Law we can arbitrate. Grace confounds us. I like Robert Farrar Capon’s observation that hell and heaven are both populated ONLY by forgiven sinners.

    Losing our fanciful side? No, but maybe we are giving it short shrift. The best thing we did as parents with our daughter (and some years–or some decades–perhaps the only thing that it felt like we did right was to read to her nightly before bedtime. Did that until she was past 10 and too heavy to hold on our laps for a half hour. So then we had her crawl under the covers while we sat on the floor and read at her bedside. Sometimes I’d glance at her when I was reading and she would not be looking at the words on the page or the extraordinary art in the wonderful children’s books. She would be gazing into space but still fully engaged because way more than the words of the story was going on in her mind. The power to imagine and envision was wiring her brain. Speech, thought and reason were developing. The ability to SEE. The magic of the process is that it could have taken place equally well even if I had been telling the story from memory with no book in front of us. Deep in our guts we knew that bilogical life does not equate to human life. Once she was born, we had to turn that little creature into a human being. We brought her here, so it was our job. No one else’s.

    A big question for us today is this: what happens in a child’s mind when things like the above DON’T happen?

    Related to that is this question: How does your view of the world change when your horizons extend no farther than the glowing screen super glued to the palm of your hand?

    Lately, I’ve been contemplating the manufacture of 10,000 bumper stickers: SMART PHONE, DUMB HUMAN.

    But perhaps no one would see unless it got tweeted to them while driving…

    • Debbie

      That was funny , the last sentence, but sadly accurate.

      • Alison

        To AF Roger: your “Smart phone, dumb human” concept is a good one. Could it be that our obsession with information is what, in fact, is dumbing us down–particularly in the stifling (or the short-shrifting, as you call it) of our fanciful side? And what about the difference between intelligence and wisdom? I think they’re huge.

  • Peg Willis

    The thing about “fanciful” is that it – like God – can’t be penned up. That’s scary. God is scary. We need to quit trying to pen up a huge God in a box of rules. Talk about the ultimate insult! (… not to mention the ultimate waste of time and energy!)