Sunday, December 14, 2008


I had an imaginary friend. I am guessing that for those of you who know me personally, this is not much of a surprise but i was thinking about the illusive and mischievous "Scat Cat" and thought I should share. I think Scat came to be part of my life on a trip to California when I was 3 (i think...). I was still an only child at the time, and my mother was pregnant with my sister Rachel and we were taking a road trip across the USA with my grandparents on my father's side in their motor home when this particular purple cat made his way into my life. As I recall we stopped in the Dakotas at the Corn Palace and got some serious sesame street gear and possibly a Gumby and Pokey figurine set and this is the first time I recall making sure that Scat Cat had a place to sit in the motorhome.
None of the adults I was with were very good at playing pretend... so of course... I pretended that there was a large purple cat wearing a trendy hat (think a mix between Disney's Cheshire cat and the cat that plays the trumpet in Disney's Aristocats.. also named Scat Cat) that was excellent at playing pretend. Makes sense to me. I pretended to have someone to play pretend with.
OK... I promise this is coming from somewhere. It is a little disjointed.. but oh well.
I was poking around my usual online haunts and came upon this little video that was posted on A Print A Day (which if you haven't checked out is fun... what a talented gal). I just noticed that they are raising money for a library in Mongolia via this little gal's stories. This little girl just killed me with her stories. What imaginations children have! My favorite part of ths whole story is the hippo's allergies. OMG. Adorable. Why have I never thought about that? The most wonderful connections happen in the minds of kids and I would pay good money to have that back. Maybe i need to sit down and have a cuppa with Scat Cat and catch up on old times.

Here's a little definition from Webster's online to get the gears moving on this:

Main Entry: imag·i·na·tion
Pronunciation: \i-ˌma-jə-ˈnā-shən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin imagination-, imaginatio, from imaginari
Date: 14th century
1: the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality2 a: creative ability b: ability to confront and deal with a problem : resourcefulness imagination and get us out of here> c: the thinking or active mind : interest imagination>3 a: a creation of the mind ; especially : an idealized or poetic creation b: fanciful or empty assumption

Is it just me or the root word "imaginari" one of the greatest sounding things you have heard this week? It sounds like some sort of ancient Chinese type of warrior that uses telekinesis. I think that is who I want to be when I grow up. The Imaginari.

I guess this leaves a lot of questions for me. What does one do in order to become the most creative an imaginative that they possibly can become? How can one learn to think outside of the box? How can you make the connections that are absurd and beautiful? How can one stimulate the imagination and live in a life that is guided by a God-given creativity? I don't know... but let me tell you my heart is racing just thinking about it.

I took a class in college called "Juxtaposynthesis". Oddly enough this made-up word looks like the most impressive class I took in all of college... well Physics looks decently good as well... but i still think the class taught by Prof. Steve Heilmer takes the cake. We had a bit of a rough ending to the course, but besides some unfortunate mishaps of burglary in the art building that winter, this class ranks as one of the more life-changing experiences that took place in my college years... and I am sad to say that for how often i think about it I have yet to go back and bother Steve for a syllabus to look through once again. Juxtaposynthesis was all about making those unlikely connection
s by placing two things side by side or, even better, integrating them in a way that created a new experience and a new meaning.. think Rauschenberg sort of (peices at left). This blew my mind at the time, and still kind of does. We were asked to do some 'crazy' and possibly borderline sacrilegious (at times) exercises that pushed my boundaries on how to think of the world. We were told to make crosses. Some ended up being made out of dismembered baby doll parts, some antique printing press letters, some out of Triscut snack cracker boxes. Each time something new was born. I made my first piece of clothing out of packing material that winter... a jacket out of bubble wrap. shoes of lost puzzle pieces. I folded paper cranes out of pictures of aircraft carriers. I was introduced to Annie Dillard's literature which changed my life again. I was transformed by seeing things differently... my trying to make the unlikely connections that lead to the redemption of objects or images that would otherwise go unnoticed. This process stole my heart... especially when paired with the idea of redemption. This has just recently been rediscovered in my vault of memories this Christmas season when listening to the story of God.
Holy creativity... Holy juxtaposition.
I have been struck by the creativity of the Master Creator for some time. Having had a number of experiences in "the church" and with "the church" that make me ill, I have never been able to turn my back on the God of the Bible in part because of a story of the Ultimate Creative. I mean, look at giraffes.
HILARIOUS. What other things leave us in awe, wonder, or just rolling in stitches because of the absurdity of it all.Flounders make me laugh. Brilliant.. they have both eye on top of their bodies... they are like pancakes of fish.. squished by nature's steamroller to the bottom of the ocean floor. Or sloths. Sloths are funny too. Mountains are brilliant and beautiful but deadly.. as are small things like poisonous tree frogs. Let us not forget snowflakes and the CRAZY reality that no two are alike!!! IN-FREAKING-SANE. Something we can barely see that is so intricate that we will go along without noticing it before it melts to oblivion. Don't get me started on marsupials. But it isn't just natural wonders that inform my affection and awe for this Ultimate Creative. But the stories of scripture. Women leading people groups... prostitutes all over the place ... shepherds turned to kings...that's like the trash man becoming the next president of the US. It's CRAZY and WONDERFUL.
But most of all, in this season is the ultimate story of juxtaposition... that of a baby born among livestock that came to save all man-kind. I know we have heard it over and over again and it loses its' crazy-factor... but i was stepping back and putting it through my brain again this morning. The people say "we want a Messiah who will rule in power" and God says "yo- no prob. Here is myself as my son born to an unwed teenager near some cows and sheep
and raised as a carpenter. There you go." I mean really... God? What the heck? Can you push the unlikely-connection factor up another notch? "Sure" says God... "Let me throw in a man that lives in the woods who eats bugs to tell you He is coming." Oh sure. It is flat out weird.

It's hard to explain how strange that is to me right now. We all love a surprise ending... we love twists in movies and unlikely turns in the plot but somehow we got bored with the Christmas story. Maybe that is another reason why we must be 'born again'. I know this is a stretch... but somehow this implies to me that we start over.. and that makes me want to start over including starting over on how i believe things... how connections are made and say "of course hippos have allergies to magic... of course green eggs and ham sounds delicious... of course a baby in a feed trough is God incarnate." (Giotto. The nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds. 1304-1306. Fresco)

Why? Why is this lost on me?

Lord! Heal my damaged imagination. Heal me of my human logic. Renew the mind of a child and let me live in the absurd and glorious promises of unlikely connections made by you, my Ultimate Creative. Please. I want to live in full color.


Heather Z said...

As someone we both know (and one of us has read) :) might say, we need to unlearn what we have learned and let imagination overtake memory.

paint_pants said...

i don't know if i can fully agree with that... but i get it.. and i agree from where it comes from. If imagination completely overtakes memory... how will w have learned from the past and the saints?

Heather Z said...

Oh yeah, I totally agree with you there, but I think that's a different issue. I'm a big believer in the idea that understanding our past is the key to unlocking our destiny. But I think the idea of letting imagination overtake memory has more to do with our perspective of our own history. It's about remembering imaginary friends and believing the impossible. Not about trashing all of history.

paint_pants said...

Yeah... that phrase... i like what it was intended to mean. All for it. We talked about this. I'm just biased and snarky sometimes... ok a lot of the time.
I guess the line i have to draw with that one-liner is when personal revisionist history happens.. for instance "When I was a child I walked to school uphill both ways in 50 feet of snow," although as shown by the film Big Fish sometimes the made-up is more exciting than the real in that case too... i guess as long as we still glean the lesson that needs to be learned I'm ok with it :) You know I'm just being a pain to you though :)

Heather Z said...

Yes, you enjoy that, don't you? I'm tempted to start beating you up in the logic game since you brought up the Big Fish example (which blasts your snarky points away)-- but that seems to be off-topic.

Here's an idea. While we are getting ourselves lost in the Amazing Race, why don't we co-author a book, Adventures in Missing the Point? :)