Heaven begins in our imagination. My wife and I became soulmates because we first imagined it, any personal growth starts first in our mind’s eye, new projects and adventures begin first in our brain’s creativity, MLK Jr.’s vision for a better nation and world started as a Dream that’s both made a definite difference and is still unfolding, and on it goes. Not only do our imaginations shape our realities, I don’t think the real world (from the globe to your and my life) will ever be better than our imaginations!
A line from Henry David Thoreau that’s stuck with me since high school (nearly 30 years ago) is: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.” Yes! Dream big and work purposefully, diligently, and hopefully to bring your vision to life! Thoreau’s simple sentence has nourished my spirit for years, and I think is super relevant to us today.
When I was studying to be a pastor in seminary, something we frequently talked about was the practice of living as if “the end” had already arrived. Rehearse the life in heaven, the party in paradise, and enlightenment in the ever after you imagine here and now with others, and over time it will become evermore true. For instance, I’m convinced the utopian future we long for has no violence of any sort, only peace and Love. The wolf will lie with the lamb. Enemies will become brothers and sisters. We will turn our weapons for war into tools for nourishment. And we will dwell together in unity, collective flourishing, and equanimity, living harmoniously with nature as one human family. I carry this beautiful picture in my head, do my best to live it, and see it coming to life around me all the time.
A more mundane example of this for me comes in yoga. When it comes to challenging poses, like arm balances and handstand, if I picture myself unable to do it I rarely can, but when I visualize success the odds of what I want happening increase dramatically!
A famous line from Cool Hand Luke comes to mind: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” While that DEFINITELY is a big part of the racial and political mess we’re facing in America, I’d add what we’ve got here is a failure to imagine! We’ve failed to imagine being able to coexist with compassion and care for those different from us, which leads to stark and all too violent divides between our political parties, races, and beyond. What’s more, as is often the case the macro reflects the micro and vice versa, meaning what applies to nations and communities is equally relevant to individuals, families, and circles.
Before my wife and I became soulmates, for example, there’d been instances (i.e. other relationships) where I’d settled, settled for a connection and relational intimacy that was pretty good, but not fantastic. I’d lacked the imagination to believe I could find something so storybook special.
Likewise, in my younger years I considered the beautiful image of heaven come to earth I describe a bit above as nothing more than a pipe dream for fools, while realists like me knew that could only happen in some post-death existence in which God had magically made it so. That’s why I championed our invasion of Iraq in 2003, believed “evil” deserved to die, and thought the ONLY way to respond to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was by meeting their violence with bigger violence. Now, though, I experience heaven in its beautiful and harmonious awesomeness all the time, can honestly say I Love ALL people (even enemies), and can envision numerous peaceful, healing, and restorative ways we could have responded to 9/11. Why? Because I dare to dream it’s possible!
I picture a life where angels are dancing and singing around us all the time. I imagine a world with Love, harmony, and unity between all races, religions, political parties, classes, and genders. Will you join me in dreaming big and working to build the foundations for it together? What bold and beautiful future do you imagine personally, communally, and/or globally?
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