I’m not a big environmentalist. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy this planet as much as the next guy. But I’ve never gone out of my way, politically or otherwise, to fight for the literal world we live in. I tell you this to let you know that this is not your typical Earth Day plea.
But I do want to share an observation I had this month that has helped change the way I view our world. It has reshaped, reframed, and reinforced my appreciation for this beautiful ball of dirt we call home.
Of Other Worlds
I was watching a popular movie a few weeks ago. The theater was crowded. It was one of these space-travel, fantasy type of movies and I heard a little girl in the row behind me ohhh and ahhh as the characters reached each new planet, discovering animals and atmospheres new to the senses.
And it was beautiful. Beautiful landscapes. Beautiful Animals.
As I continued to watch and the girl behind me continued to be amazed, a thought occurred to me. A rather obvious thought, but one I admit I don’t have as often as I should.
I thought about how excited we get with the cinematography of these other worlds. Alternate universes, additional realms, and far away planets are like a playground for our imagination.
The Source of Imagination
As the movie finished and we left the theater, I continued to think about our fascination with other worlds.
Has anyone ever noticed that everything in our imagination is just a rearrangement of what we already know? What I mean is: our imagination does not create anything new. All it does is take the elements we have observed and reorder them.
Can you imagine a color you haven’t seen? Can you imagine an animal that has no elements of an animal on earth – gills, arms, eyes, hair, etc.?
The simple answer is no. We cannot imagine anything truly new. We can simply strip down what we have seen and rearrange it.
And so, when we ohhhh and ahhhh at the other worlds we see in movies, we are truly and deeply appreciating the beauty of this world. Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, and The Northern Lights are things whose existence we take for granted. But a horizontal waterfall that changes colors over a vast expanse of desert sky is an amalgamation of what we love about the nature around us.
A New Perception
Why do we need to do this? Why do we love to repackage so much?
Maybe it is because we long for more than our world presents us. But if we long for more than this world offers and feel a sense of awe in our derivative imaginings, we must also acknowledge there are hints of this ‘more’ in the very world we strive to escape.
Maybe it is because we are addicted to newness. We’ve tricked ourselves to thinking we can short-circuit The Mood Curve by constantly re-inventing the wheel. It may be hard to believe, but if you lived next to a horizontal waterfall and saw it every day of your life, you’d end up taking it for granted too.
We appreciate fantasy because we are longing to appreciate reality. Since hope has become all but endangered, our perception has to trick us into being thankful in a creative way.
In the end, it is this world in which we live and there is no escaping that. It is the fodder for our imagination and the source of our awe. These people. This place. We are not victims of a boring or cruel world. We are participants in a world of majesty and goodness. Imperfect, sure. But still worthy of our awe and thanksgiving.